Government ministers have left some 750 parliamentary questions unanswered since the beginning of this legislature in March 2022, employing delaying tactics or outright refusing to give responses, according to new data tabled in parliament on Monday.
Broken down by government ministry, the number of unanswered PQs reveals the Minister for Sport and Education Clifton Grima as the worst offender, with almost 180 unanswered or postponed questions.
House Speaker Anġlu Farrugia tabled the data in response to a parliamentary question by opposition Nationalist Party MP Chris Said. It shows that Grima’s performance is followed by Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo, Transport Minister Aaron Farrugia and Agricultural Minister Anton Refalo, each with around 70 unanswered questions.
National Heritage and Arts Minister Owen Bonnici, Social Policy Minister Michael Falzon, Lands Minister Silvio Schembri and Planning Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi each had more than 30 unanswered parliamentary questions.
The number of unanswered questions raises doubts about the government’s claimed commitment to transparency, compounding issues faced by journalists and newsrooms, including The Shift, to obtain information in the public interest.
Some of the most answer-averse ministries, those covering sport, transport, and tourism, also enjoy the largest government budgets, leading to more questions about their planning and expenditure.
Nevertheless, the unanswered questions coincide with several scandals that have involved the ministries in question.
Sports Minister Grima’s unwillingness to answer parliamentary questions coincides with the mismanagement of multi-million euro sports infrastructure projects over the past years, even leading to a parliamentary row between MPs over a report by The Shift.
Bartolo’s Tourism Ministry led to multiple questions since the beginning of the legislature about the expenditure of the Malta Film Commission on controversial cashback schemes and lavish festivals. The latter issue racked up 24 parliamentary questions alone.
The Infrastructure and Transport Ministry, led by Farrugia, has similarly seen several issues over the past few years, including the driving licences and tests scandals and a controversial changeover of CEOs at Transport Malta.
The Shift has reported that under Prime Minister Robert Abela, the government has become increasingly less transparent, with ministers more reticent to divulge earnings, an information wipe-out on government websites, and a strong resolve against releasing information through Freedom of Information requests.