Former MP Joseph Muscat cannot be summoned by the parliamentary standards committee to be questioned on his role in the granting of a tourism consultancy contract to Konrad Mizzi after he stepped down as minister, because he is no longer an MP, Speaker Anglu Farrugia ruled on Monday.
The ruling was requested by the committee last week after it endorsed a report by Standards Commissioner George Hyzler.
In a detailed ruling, Farrugia observed that the proceedings of the committee are regulated by specific legislation, and this legislation does not make reference to former MPs.
He noted that similar questions had been asked in the House of Commons, the Scottish Parliament and other Commonwealth parliaments, but in view of the fact that in Malta there is specific legislation, rather than the Standing Orders of the House, to regulate the proceedings of the standards committee he could not, as Speaker, suggest action as was done in similar cases elsewhere.
He also observed that in terms of the law the only sanction that the committee could possibly apply against Joseph Muscat was a reprimand but in this case too, such a punishment could only be issued by a court.
Parliament made an instrument of impunity - Repubblika
In a reaction to the Speaker's ruling, rule of law NGO Repubblika said parliament was being turned into an instrument of impunity, powerless in the face of blatant abuse of power.
It was shocking, the NGO said, that MPs were eligible for a far better pension than anyone else, thanks to their work in parliament, but then were not held accountable for their shortcomings.
The ruling was an insult to parliamentary democracy and eroded the people's right to expect correct behaviour from MPs.