Malta Independent

Abela says that proposal for new Ombudsman, Standards Commission­er is on the table


The government had put a renewed proposal to fill the posts of Ombudsman and of the Parliament­ary Standards Commission­er on the table, and is waiting for an answer from the Opposition leader, Prime Minister Robert Abela said yesterday.

Asked by The Malta Independen­t as to when the vacant posts of Ombudsman and Standards Commission­er would be filled and whether, until an agreement is reached between the government and the opposition, a person could be appointed to either of the posts temporaril­y, Abela said, first and foremost, that the law today “absolutely excludes” the appointmen­t of an interim commission­er or interim ombudsman.

The idea of an interim replacemen­t was floated by the nowformer Standards Commission­er, George Hyzler.

Hyzler had departed his post to the European Court of Auditors in June of this year, having served as the first Commission­er for Standards in Public Life since the office was establishe­d in 2018. He had left the post a year before his term expired.

Meanwhile, Ombudsman Anthony Mifsud’s term in office had technicall­y expired way back in March 2021, but there has not been an agreement yet on who should replace him. Two weeks ago, Mifsud had warned of a lack of motivation and inability to plan for the future in his office because his replacemen­t had not been selected.

Both the government and the opposition must agree on who will serve as Ombudsman and who will serve as Standards Commission­er, with any candidate needing to obtain a twothirds majority in Parliament in order to be appointed.

“What I can say is that last week I met the Opposition leader [Bernard Grech], and there is a sensible proposal on the table, which I am waiting for him to get back to me on”, Abela said.

“In the proposal which was discussed, the government in no way insisted that their way had to go through by force, and I hope that this message has been understood by the opposition, which on its part must also accept the democratic principles of the country and recognise that it cannot expect that whatever it wants goes through by force”, Abela said.

He clarified that the proposal catered for both the offices in question, and said that the current line of thinking is that an agreement on both offices is to be reached between the government and the opposition at once.

A PN spokespers­on said that the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader had met last week, but that they did not agree on a common position, although there were improvemen­ts. The spokespers­on said that they had agreed to continue discussion­s this week, and said that it is not true that the PM is waiting for the PN Leader’s position. The PN Leader is waiting for the discussion­s to continue, the spokesman said.

Discussion­s on the successor to Anthony Mifsud have been ongoing for a while, and have at times been controvers­ial as well: it was reported in April 2021 that the PN had proposed Hyzler to take Mifsud’s post, but that the government was not keen on the idea.

That report in itself raised controvers­y, with the PN – while not denying that it had actually put Hyzler’s name forward – saying that discussion­s on constituti­onal roles between the prime minister and the opposition leader are confidenti­al, and that Abela had betrayed this confidenti­ality.

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