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Parliament still without a Commissioner for Standards, 15 months on

Law was enacted in March last year, and not acted upon

The law paving the way for a public standards commissioner was approved by Parliament in March  of last year.

The law paving the way for a public standards commissioner was approved by Parliament in March of last year.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Anġlu Farrugia, has urged the two large political parties to make a bigger effort to nominate the person who would act as an ethics watchdog for MPs.

In March 2017, legislators gave the green-light for the appointment of a commissioner for public standards, tasked with investigating breaches of ethics by MPs. Despite the law being approved over 15 months ago, the government has yet to publish a legal notice bringing it into force.

Questions sent to the Justice Ministry about the matter were not answered by the time of writing.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat promised in June 2017 to appoint a commissioner by the end of that summer but the Labour and Nationalist parties appear to have yet to agree on the candidate.

Dr Farrugia, who has been a vocal supporter of the new law, told the Times of Malta he felt the parties should work harder in the coming weeks to agree on the best person to fill the post.

OPINION: The Commissioner who never was - Tonio Borg

It is a vital check to enforce standards among MPs

He said he was willing to help facilitate the process or mediate between the two parties, if need be.

When asked about the delay in nominating a person for the role, a spokesman for the PN only directed Times of Malta to an online article published a week ago on the news portal Newsbook. It quoted Opposition whip Robert Cutajar saying party leader Adrian Delia had nominated someone for the role eight months ago but had not received any feedback from the Prime Minister.

The Labour Party said its parliamentary group intends to continue discussions with a view towards a nomination as soon as parliament resumes after the summer recess.

Former Labour whip Godfrey Farrugia, who helped steer the law through Parliament, said the failure to appoint a commissioner had created a vacuum.

It was also vital that a lobbyists’ register was set up to complement the efforts of the commissioner for public standards, he added. Dr Farrugia, who now sits in Opposition as a Democratic Party MP, said such a register would offer more transparency and help remove the threat of pecuniary interests.

“Having a commissioner for public standards is a must. It is a vital check to enforce standards among MPs,” he said.

A White Paper that included a Bill proposing the establishment of a commissioner for standards was first published in September 2012 by former Nationalist minister and European commissioner Tonio Borg.

In a Talking Point published in the Times of Malta, Dr Borg said enacting a law but failing to put it into effect does not make legal nor political sense.

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