Parliament’s Standards Committee is to await a ruling by the Speaker as to whether it can summon former prime minister Joseph Muscat to explain the granting of a Malta Tourism Authority consultancy contract to Konrad Mizzi as soon as he resigned his post as tourism minister.
The committee on Tuesday endorsed the findings of an investigation by the Standards Commissioner into the case. But it then ran into conflicting views on whether Muscat could be summoned to explain, now that he is no longer an MP.
Mizzi was handed an €80,000 contract by the Malta Tourism Authority after resigning as minister in 2019 amid the fallout from the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation.
A day after Times of Malta revealed Mizzi’s appointment, the government (now headed by Robert Abela) said it was seeking legal advice about its validity. The Tourism Ministry later instructed the authority to terminate the contract. Julia Farrugia Portelli, who served as tourism minister at the time, had said no payments were ever made.
The investigation found that it was Muscat himself who had ordered that the Malta Tourism Authority engage the disgraced former minister as its consultant.
During Tuesday’s sitting, the committee endorsed the investigation report, submitted by Commissioner George Hyzler.
Ministers Edward Zammit Lewis and Byron Camilleri, who sit on the committee, though agreeing with the endorsement, said Muscat should not be invited to answer to the committee since he is no longer an MP. This, they said, would result in a precedent that could hamper the committee’s future work.
But Opposition MPs Karol Aquilina and Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici disagreed, insisting a person should still be given the opportunity to speak in front of the committee.
“It is a person’s right to answer and I think in this case, we should not rob this person [Muscat] of the chance to explain himself. I do not want us to set a precedent that does not allow someone to be able to answer when there is a report, even if the person no longer holds a seat in Parliament.
“It is a complex situation, yes, but as long as the process started, then we should not deny the person the right to answer,” Mifsud Bonnici said.
The sitting was adjourned after the adoption of the report with the Speaker to give a ruling during a plenary sitting on the issue.
The committee agreed that it would decide later whether Muscat, as a former MP, could also face "sanctions" on the basis of the report.