Ousted minister’s ‘consolation’ job breaches ethics guidelines – PN

Former transport minister Aaron Farrugia’s nomination as Malta’s emissary to the International Maritime Organisation following his dismissal from cabinet breaches guidelines set by the Ethics Commissioner according to the Nationalist Party opposition.

The nomination was called “fundamentally wrong” in a letter to Commissioner Joseph Azzopardi. The letter pointed out guidelines set by former standards commissioner George Hyzler which called for “an end to the practice of giving backbench members of parliament jobs or consultancies with the government.”

Hyzler had called such “fundamentally wrong” appointments a dilution of “parliament’s role of scrutinising the executive,” going against constitutional and ethical principles.

In a statement published to social media on Friday, the opposition’s Shadow Minister for Justice Karol Aquilina said it was “evident” that Farrugia’s nomination was nothing but a “consolation prize” given by Prime Minister Robert Abela following the cabinet reshuffle.

Last week, The Shift revealed Farrugia’s nomination as IMO emissary, a role for which his credentials are unclear. Farrugia was the only minister sacked by Prime Minister Robert Abela in his latest reshuffle, being replaced as Transport Minister by Chris Bonett.

The opposition called on Azzopardi to investigate Farrugia’s nomination and inform the Public Appointments Committee, whether such a confirmation would breach ethics.

The guidelines calling for an end to such appointments for backbench MPs were first published in a report by Commissioner Hyzler in July 2019.

At the time, the commissioner had found that “all backbench members of Parliament on the government side have been employed or engaged with the government, directly or indirectly,” while “some opposition MPs are regular employees of government departments or agencies.”

Such MPs were found to have held appointments as “persons of trust” or on “contracts of service” in government ministries, or as chairpersons, board members or directors of public authorities. Alternatively, they were handed  consultancy contracts.

Following the opposition’s letter of request, Commissioner Azzopardi is expected to investigate the issue to determine whether ethics have been breached.

Azzopardi was appointed commissioner at the end of 2022 through newly-implemented legislation which allowed greater powers to the party in government. Since his appointment, he has been criticised for a lack of decisive action on suspected ethics breaches.

                           

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