Updated 11.15am with government reaction
The practice of giving government jobs and consultancies to backbench MPs is “fundamentally wrong” and should end, the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life has said.
In a new report, Standards Commissioner George Hyzler concludes that the practice dilutes Parliament’s role of scrutinising the government and goes against the Code of Ethics of Public Employees and Board Members and the underlying principles of the Constitution.
Every single one of the government backbenchers has been employed or engaged with the government, directly or indirectly, while several opposition MPs are regular employees of government departments or agencies, according to the report.
Instigated by a complaint from Democratic Party MP Godfrey Farrugia, who asked the commissioner to investigate whether such appointments amount to a conflict of interest, the report concludes that such jobs place MPs in a position of financial dependence on the government, undermining their independence.
Government MPs are also given an advantage over their Opposition counterparts, while statutory bodies are overly-politicised, and their independence from the government distorted.
Moreover, the report says the practice exacerbates the “questionable practice of appointment of persons of trust, that possibly goes against article 110 of the Constitution”, and creates unnecessary jobs, or else fills genuine vacancies with persons who are not necessarily best suited for that job, against principles of transparency and meritocracy.
The Commissioner said MPs were generally employed or engaged with the government after being elected to Parliament. Such MPs hold appointments as “persons of trust” or on “contracts of service” in government ministries, or as chairpersons or members of the boards of directors of public authorities, or else they have been given consultancy contracts with ministries or public authorities.
The Commissioner noted that giving backbench MPs jobs with government is widely perceived as a means of appeasing those who are not appointed as ministers or parliamentary secretaries, or as a means of compensating them for their low salaries as MPs. He called upon Parliament to address the issue of low remuneration of MPs.
'Practice started under previous administrations' - government
In a statement, the government said the report itself had acknowledged that the same practice had been adopted by previous administrations and concerned MPs on both sides of the House.
The government said the Commissioner had also acknowledged legal advice that the practice of appointing MPs as consultants to government or related entities was not contrary to the Constitution.
The government also highlighted the Commissioner's remarks that ending the practice would require an increase in MPs' salaries.
It said it would be studying the report in further detail.
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