Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo has apologised for breaching the procedures of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) by sending questions to a witness before a hearing.

The Labour MP was rebuked by Speaker Anġlu Farrugia and faced calls from the opposition to resign last week for giving economist Gordon Cordina a list of "indicative" questions.

“It seems that I made a mistake and I apologise,” Bartolo said on Monday afternoon when questioned by Times of Malta. He said he would follow the correct procedures in the future.   

The speaker ruled that while the committee can give a witness an informal indication of the line of questioning beforehand, an individual member of the committee should not do so.

Clayton Bartolo tells Daniel Ellul he made a mistake in sending draft questions to a Public Accounts Committee witness. Video: Daniel Ellul

Bank of Valletta chairman Gordon Cordina was among the witnesses in the PAC's investigation into the contract won by Electrogas to build and operate a gas-fired power plant at Delimara.

'Makes sense' to exclude ministers from PAC

In his ruling on Bartolo's behaviour, the speaker also questioned whether the PAC should include cabinet members because the committee's job is to scrutinise the government's actions. 

“One must seriously analyse this piece of advice and yes, it makes sense even though I myself am in the PAC”, Bartolo said. "But while I have the trust to be on the committee I will keep doing my work diligently."  

Of the government's four members in the committee, Bartolo and Andy Ellul have cabinet roles.

Asked about the issue last week, Prime Minister Robert Abela defended Bartolo saying the PAC member scrutinizes the committee’s topics well.

However, he suggested that Bartolo should have gone through the proper channels instead of going directly to the witness.

On Monday Bartolo said: “It results that the procedure I used was incorrect and if I need to make an apology I will”.

Last week Abela said he is seriously considering removing ministers and parliamentary secretaries from the PAC.

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