Update 7: New ministerial responsibilities announced, several responsibilities shifted
Minister, parliamentary secretary resign; new Health Minister Konrad Mizzi says 'major challenges ahead'
(Adds Konrad Mizzi's comments)
New ministerial responsibilities have been announced with several ministers and parliamentary secretaries shifting their responsibilities.
Tourism Minister Karmenu Vella will be nominated Malta's next EU Commissioner and the tourism ministry will become the responsibility of Edward Zammit Lewis, to date parliamentary secretary for economic competitiveness.
Konrad Mizzi will retain responsibility for energy but will also be taking on health with Chris Fearne, a medical consultant becomes parliamentary secretary for health.
Parliamentary Secretary Owen Bonnici is to be promoted to Justice Minister, also taking on responsibility for culture and local government. Stefan Buontempo will be Parliamentary Secretary under his ministry. To date, he is responsible for sports.
Michael Farrugia is being promoted to Minister for the family and social solidarity. To date he was responsible for planning and administrative simplication. Justyne Caruana enters the cabinet as parliamentary secretary responsible for the disabled and active ageing, which were previously the responsibility of fellow Gozitan Franco Mercieca.
Michael Falzon, a former deputy leader of the Labour Party, will be appointed parliamentary secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibilities for planning and administrative simplification.
Another newcomer, Chris Agius will be appointed parliamentary secretary for research, innovation, youth and sports in the Education Ministry.
Jose Herrera will see his responsibilities changing from culture and local government to competitiveness and economic growth in the Economy Ministry.
The government said in a statement that the appointments will come into effect on Wednesday after Marie Louise Coleiro Preca is appointed President.
The new Cabinet will be formed as in the pdf link below. As in the current Cabinet, there will be 14 ministers and eight parliamentary secretaries.
The government said that while Carmelo Abela will retain his responsibilities as the government's whip, he will also become government spokesman.
Tony Agius Decelis would be appointed Commissioner against Bureaucracy.
The new responsibilities were assigned today, a few days earlier than expected, following the resignation of Health Minister Godfrey Farrugia and Parliamentary Secretary for the Elderly Franco Mercieca.
Dr Farrugia submitted his resignation as health minister in a letter to Dr Muscat, published on facebook by his partner Marlene Farrugia, a fellow MP, and Mr Mercieca confirmed to timesofmalta.com that although he was still serving, he had informed Dr Muscat of his intention to resign "weeks ago".
In his resignation letter, Dr Farrugia thanked the Prime Minister for offering him the post of Social Policy Minister but said he could not accept the position.
This afternoon he had a meeting with Dr Muscat at Girgenti which lasted more than an hour. On coming out of the Palace just after 6pm, he looked shaken as he walked to a car some 800 metres a way where Ms Farrugia was waiting.
Mr Mizzi, who will be taking over health responsibilities, was present for part of the meeting. He told journalists as he walked out of the Palace that he was very happy with his new responsibilities.
"There is a lot of work to do and the challenges are big..." He said these challenges were discussed during his meeting with Dr Muscat and Dr Farrugia and said he will be meeting Dr Farrugia for a handover soon. He said he was willing to work with all stakeholders.
Dr Farrugia said in his letter to Dr Muscat that when he became Health Minister, he saw this as a golden opportunity to strengthen his services for the dignity and needs of patients and said he was convinced that in the year he had been in office he and his colleagues had created the basis for the sector to become sustainable.
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil tweeted "Godfrey Farrugia's resignation: Not a clean bill of health for Muscat's one year old government."
Mr Mercieca told timesofmalta.com he retained his job as he had still not received a reply from the Prime Minister. He said he had also asked Dr Muscat not to consider him for the new Cabinet as his vocation was ophthalmology.
A family doctor in Zebbug, Dr Farrugia last April became emotional and shed some tears as he expressed his sadness at having had to give up his profession to serve as minister.
His one year tenure was surrounded by controversy with the appointment by the Prime Minister of former EU Commissioner John Dalli to head a reform body within the administration of Mater Dei Hospital.
In January, the Prime Minister ordered that a tent set up outside Mater Dei Hospital be removed.
The tent was set up to house the hospital's reception area in case of an influx of patients suffering from influenza.
Dr Farrugia started his political career in local councils and was repeatedly elected mayor Zebbug. He is president of various organisations.
Asked about resignation reports in February, Mr Mercieca was evasive and said he was serving as parliamentary secretary for the elderly and would continue to serve in that role until the prime minister felt otherwise.
His appointment has been mired in controversy since an investigation by The Sunday Times of Malta last year found he was still conducting eye operations, earning €3,600 in a morning in breach of the Code of Ethics.
The issue was later discussed between Mr Mercieca and the prime minister and Mr Mercieca agreed to continue to work free of charge at Mater Dei.
The last minister to resign from Cabinet was Carm Mifsud Bonnici in the last legislature. He was forced to resign after Parliament approved a motion of no confidence in him.
The most recent voluntary resignation was by Chris Said in the last legislature because of a court case which had implied wrongdoing by him in his private practice as a lawyer before he joined the government.
He was reinstated when the case was settled.
The Nationalist Party said in a statement that the resignations continued to uncover the bad qualities of Dr Muscat’s management style.
Even those who were close to him were now providing proof that Dr Muscat first used you then threw you away. This was what he did with Dr Farrugia and Mr Mercieca and what he had lso done with the residents of the south with his decision to anchor an LNG storage tank in Marsaxlokk Bay, the party said.
It said that not only did Dr Muscat put all imaginable spokes in the wheel for Dr Farrugia not to be able to implement his responsibilities as Health Minister, he also hid for several week Mr Mercieca’s resignation from Cabinet and the Maltese people.
A Prime Minister who hid from the people a Cabinet minister’s resignation was a Prime Minister who placed his political interests before respect towards the people he was leading.
Dr Muscat had promised the best Cabinet in Maltese history. After just a year, this was another promise from a series which had already evaporated, the PN said.