Keith Schembri will not have to give any more evidence to a parliamentary committee examining the controversial Electrogas power station contract until a court decides whether his right to a fair hearing was violated. 

Parliamentary speaker Anglu Farrugia made the ruling on Tuesday following a request by the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.

It comes after three PAC members asked the police to investigate the former prime minister's chief of staff for perjury, prompting Schembri's lawyers to ask for his testimony to be suspended.

On Tuesday, speaker Farrugia said that this was a “particular case”. 

“Never have three members of the PAC reported a witness directly to the case, with the witness appearing before the same members who made the report,” he said. The guidelines do not consider such a situation, he added.  

Committee subordinate to court

Quoting British jurisprudence, Farrugia said the committee should wait for the constitutional court’s decision before carrying on with the testimony, to avoid the possibility of the PAC violating Schembri’s human rights.   

He cited Erskine May's treatise on parliamentary procedure to say that a select committee hearing was subordinate to court in matters of law. 

Two weeks ago the three PN PAC members Darren Carabott, David Agius and Graham Bencini asked the police to investigate Schembri, former Finance Minister Edward Scicluna, and assistant commissioner Silvio Valletta for perjury after testimonies in front of the PAC contradicted each other. 

Scicluna had told the inquiry that major decisions by the government were taken by an inner circle that operated outside the confines of cabinet. Schembr, however,  insisted that as finance minister Scicluna would have been involved in major decisions. 

Schembri appeared in front of the PAC again last Tuesday but refused to answer any questions.  

His lawyer Edward Gatt asked for a ruling from the speaker over whether Schembri’s testimony should be suspended while the perjury investigation is concluded.  

Committee chairman Carabott said that a witness cannot ask for a speaker’s ruling and only the committee or committee members can do so. No committee member volunteered to pass on Schembri’s request. 

Consequently, Schembri refused to answer any question, with his lawyer opening a constitutional case days later asking whether Schembri’s right to a fair hearing has been violated when the three PN PAC members went to the police.  

Schembri refused to answer any subsequent questions by PAC members, saying he will not reply in light of the constitutional case which will open “within the next two days”. 

The PAC then asked the speaker for guidance about how to proceed. 

MPs on the PAC are investigating the Electrogas contract after an audit report found multiple instances of non-compliance in the winning bid. 

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