Read a translation of this opinion piece in Maltese.
Republican Congressman George Santos was expelled from Congress as 105 representatives from his own Republican party voted to kick him out, disgusted at their colleague’s behaviour.
Ethics Committee Chairman Michael Guest, a Republican himself, submitted a damning ethics report offering substantial evidence that Santos knowingly engaged in fraudulent conduct and engaged in wilful violations of the Ethics in Government Act.
Rosianne Cutajar was also found to have breached ethics by Standards Commissioner George Hyzler. Even the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly concluded she violated the code of conduct. She’s been roundly condemned in a detailed NAO report for her “irregular and fraudulent” phantom ITS job.
But unlike Santos, she hasn’t been kicked out of parliament and remains insolently defiant. She also remains a member of the Labour Party, which invited her to their latest Annual General Conference.
An investigation found Cutajar guilty of breaching ethics in July 2021. Cutajar admitted to receiving €9000 in cash from Yorgen Fenech but denied receiving €46,000 in brokerage fees for her part in selling a Mdina property.
Cutajar failed to declare the €9000 gift to parliament. Yet Speaker Anglu Farrugia voted against adopting the Standards Commissioner’s report and an opposition motion calling for sanctions against Cutajar- he even stormed out of the discussion on the motion.
It took several months before the Parliamentary Standards Committee finally adopted the report. The opposition proposed that Cutajar should be suspended from parliament for one month, but Labour MPs and Farrugia voted against it, instead voting to “admonish” her. That admonishment consisted of Farrugia’s polite letter informing Cutajar of the Committee’s decision. No apology was demanded, and no penalty was imposed.
Simultaneously, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly investigated Cutajar for possible “serious breaches of ethics”. Cutajar accepted thousands from Yorgen Fenech only to travel to Strasbourg weeks later to give a speech downplaying 17 Black and other government corruption scandals.
Instead of removing her from Labour’s parliamentary group, Prime Minister Robert Abela was moved to protect Cutajar, replacing her at the parliamentary assembly and sparing Cutajar potential sanctions. He even appointed her president of the parliamentary health committee. He allowed Cutajar to contest the 2022 general election on the party ticket, invited her to speak at a Labour campaign event, and defended her shameless behaviour, encouraging the electorate to vote for her.
“It is up to the public to decide”, Abela commented.
Embarrassingly for Abela, two days before the 2022 election, the Council of Europe found Cutajar “in serious breach” of ethics. She was found to have acted as a “paid advocate”, “used her position to further her own or other person’s interests”, and had committed a “serious breach” of several articles of the Code of Conduct.
The committee lamented that the applicable range of sanctions could not be enforced because Abela had deviously removed Cutajar from the assembly.
When leaked WhatsApp messages between Cutajar and Yorgen Fenech revealed Cutajar’s abusive ITS consultancy post and her accusations that all her Labour colleagues were “pigging out”, Abela kept defending her. “She’s already paid a political price”, he rebutted.
As anger mounted within Labour, Abela made a screeching U-turn. Cutajar was finally forced out of Labour’s parliamentary group – but remained a party member.
Commissioner Joseph Azzopardi found a convenient excuse to stop investigating her, and Cutajar brazenly declared she was acquitted, openly bragging about her “political and Labour activism”. Nobody from Labour’s leadership stepped in to
disassociate themselves from her, including the prime minister. Instead, he allowed her to continue to taint the party with her obscene shamelessness.
Just days after her bizarre claim that “the case is now closed”, the NAO published a blistering report. It found that her ITS consultancy was irregular and fraudulent, the contract was backdated, and Cutajar was incompetent for the job, and there was practically no evidence she’d done any work for the tens of thousands of euros she was paid- an unjustifiably high rate, decided arbitrarily.
The report commented that there was potential collusion between her and Pierre Fenech in their answers to the NAO. Besides, Cutajar failed to declare her income from her ITS post, as she did with her €9000 gift.
“The financial beneficiary of this irregularity was Hon. Cutajar; however, the deceit was abetted through the actions of the CEO ITS when agreeing to the disbursement of public funds he was responsible for administering”, the report concluded. “That is the NAO’s opinion, it doesn’t mean it’s true”, Cutajar commented.
The bullish Rosianne Cutajar was too scared to meet the NAO and answer questions in person, agreeing only to provide written replies- hardly the actions of someone convinced of her innocence. Those are the actions of a coward who knows she’ll get caught. “I worked for every cent I earned”, she bluffed.
That’s impossible, considering her contract was backdated, and she earned thousands before the contract was even signed. The truth is that Cutajar defrauded the nation of thousands of euros.
Like Santos, Cutajar engaged in fraudulent conduct and violated ethics. For his violations, Santos was kicked out of Congress and now faces 23 felony charges and could serve 20 years in jail if convicted. He’ll no longer receive his salary as a member of Congress and won’t receive a pension.
Unlike Santos, our Rosianne, who received €28,000 in termination benefits upon her resignation, continues to collect her MP’s honorarium, will receive her pension, and remains a member of the Labour Party.
The opposition will table a motion to “urge” Cutajar to return the money she “earned” from her fake ITS consultancy. What she should face is a criminal prosecution for fraud.
Like Santos, Cutajar’s place is not the House of Representatives – it’s jail.