Two retired judges are expected to fill the vacant positions of ombudsman and standards commissioner if the prime minister and opposition leader agree on them, Times of Malta can reveal.

Judge Joseph Zammit McKeon is being named as a possible replacement for outgoing Ombudsman Anthony Mifsud while former chief justice Joseph Azzopardi could replace former Standards Commissioner George Hyzler. 

It is not clear who nominated the two judges but it is understood that Zammit McKeon was proposed by the opposition while Azzopardi’s name was put forward by the government. 

Outgoing European Court of Auditors member Leo Brincat was also floated at some point during the discussions. 

The sources say there has been no agreement yet between the leaders and discussions will continue until there is. 

News of the development came Monday morning when Prime Minister Robert Abela announced that the government had put forward the names of two people and was waiting for feedback from the opposition.

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. 

Abela did not divulge who the government had proposed to replace Mifsud and Hyzler. 

Sources told Times of Malta later that opposition leader Bernard Grech was not yet convinced by the two names.

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. 

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