Updated 3.15pm with PL reaction to PN's statement

The government has filed parliamentary motions officially proposing two retired judges to fill the vacant positions of ombudsman and standards commissioner, despite a lack of agreement on the latter by the opposition.

In a statement, the government announced that Prime Minister Robert Abela had filed two motions in parliament whereby he was nominating Judge Joseph Zammit McKeon as a replacement for outgoing Ombudsman Anthony Mifsud and former chief justice Joseph Azzopardi as a replacement for former Standards Commissioner George Hyzler.

The Nationalist Party said on Wednesday that it agreed with the government on the nomination of Zammit McKeon to serve as Ombudsman but it said talks needed to continue on the appointment of the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life.

The party issued the statement after Abela said earlier that the government was ready to invoke an anti-deadlock mechanism for the appointment of the new standards commissioner if agreement remained at bay.

In its statement on Friday, the government said PN leader Bernard Grech had backtracked after having given his word on Azzopardi’s nomination.

It said Abela believed that the two former judges had the qualifications, experience, integrity and skills necessary to serve in these two roles.

Times of Malta revealed the two names on Tuesday. It is understood that Zammit McKeon was proposed by the opposition while Azzopardi’s name was put forward by the government.

On Monday, Abela said he was confident agreement would be reached and appealed to the opposition not to expect both positions to be filled by people of its choice.

The offices of the ombudsman and the standard commissioner have been left in limbo for several months after the government and the opposition failed to agree on new nominees for the roles.

Hyzler vacated the role of standards commissioner in September while Mifsud’s five-year term officially expired in March 2021 but he has remained in office until a replacement is found.

In his annual report tabled recently in parliament, Mifsud said the failure to appoint a new public service watchdog was creating “uncertainty and demotivation” within the office of the ombudsman.“

In a final press conference, Hyzler warned of “repercussions” on the office’s work if no one was immediately identified to replace him.

Hyzler had told Times of Malta it would be a grave mistake to leave the standards office empty as there was still a lot of work to be done

PN reacts

Reacting, the PN said the government's filing of the motion confirmed Abela's arrogance. 

The prime minister, the party said in a statement, had spent months making it difficult to hold discussions about important nominations such as that of an ombudsman and a standards commission.

"This led to a situation where cases flagged with the commissioner are not being investigated and decided upon."

In a separate statement, the PL said the PN had, once again, not explained why it was not backing the nomination of Azzopardi for Standards Commissioner.

The true arrogance, it said, was being expressed by those who, from the opposition expected to get their way only. 


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