Minister Carmelo Abela has defended controversial government adverts which include large photos of himself, saying he is obliged to inform the public of his work.
Abela was reacting to a report by the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life George Hyzler, which found that adverts featuring large images of the minister did not provide the public with any “information of value”.
Published on Wednesday, the report concluded that the adverts were in breach of ethical standards.
Taking to Facebook, Abela said on Friday he was obliged to keep the public informed of his work and to communicate how the public can benefit from the government’s policies.
He said there were no clear guidelines on how this is to be done.
Abela also said that the Hyzler report was not the end of the process, and that the matter would now be discussed in a parliamentary committee.
“In respect to the office of the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life and the parliamentary process, I will wait for the conclusions of the committee before making any further declarations about this case,” he said.
Abela, who is a minister within the Office of the Prime Minister, was reported by civil society NGO Repubblika to the commissioner over print advertisements that appeared in national newspapers.
The ads, which depicted Abela accompanied by slogans, did not provide readers with essential information and did not fulfil the criteria for a pre-established budgetary provision, effectively serving as public relations for the MP on the taxpayer’s bill, the NGO said.
The report found that the campaign cost the taxpayer €7,012.98, including VAT, to feature the advert in Illum, Malta Today, The Sunday Times of Malta, The Malta Independent on Sunday, It-Torċa and KullĦadd. The ads were placed by advertising agency Striped Sox.
The commissioner found that the messages found within the ads, which heavily featured Abela’s photograph, could not be considered to be informative or of interest to the public to merit being paid for through public funds.