The Commissioner for Standards in Public Life has issued a document proposing the adoption of revised codes of ethics for members of the House of Representatives and ministers. He has submitted the document to the Standards Committee of the House of Representatives as a recommendation under article 13(1)(g) of the Standards in Public Life Act.
The revised codes are intended to replace the current codes of ethics for MPs and ministers, which are found in the first and second schedules of the Standards in Public Life Act. The revised codes are intended to strengthen the ethical standards applying to MPs and ministers and reinforce the framework of accountability within which Malta’s governing institutions operate. The revised codes also address recommendations by the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO), a body within the Council of Europe.
The revised Code of Ethics for Members of the House of Representatives incorporates elements such as the following:
- New principles that would require MPs not to expose themselves to any risk of being placed under undue pressure and influence in the performance in their duties.
- A provision obliging members not to abuse the power and privileges enjoyed by them.
- A Register for Gifts, Benefits and Hospitality in which MPs should duly record not only gifts, benefits and hospitality received but also those bestowed by them to third parties, if such gifts are related to their parliamentary or political activities.
- A Register of Interests for registration of financial and non-financial interests.
The revised Code of Ethics for Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries introduces important changes such as the following:
- Ministers are subject to employment restrictions for a period of three years after leaving office.
- Ministers are required to record their assets and financial and other interests in a Register of Interests.
- Ministers are required to record all relevant communications with lobbyists in a Transparency Register.
- Ministers are obliged not to accept any gifts, benefits and hospitality for themselves or for members of their families except as permitted by guidelines issued by the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life.
- Ministers may not bestow gifts, benefits and hospitality except as permitted by the Commissioner’s guidelines.
- Ministers are required to avoid associating with individuals who could place them under any obligation or inappropriate influence.
- Ministers are required to avoid putting themselves in situations in their private lives that may expose them to any undue pressure or influence.
- If ministers meet persons with an interest in obtaining permits, authorisations and other benefits from the state, they should do so in an official setting and in the presence of officials.
- Ministers are required to avoid conducting official business through unofficial email accounts.
- Ministers are required to channel public funding to the media on the basis of objective criteria.
Each code is accompanied by a set of guidelines which elaborates on specific aspects. Each code itself contains enabling provisions empowering the Commissioner for Standards to issue such guidelines. This approach avoids encumbering the codes with excessive detail and enables the guidelines to be changed as necessary in the light of experience or changing circumstances.
The Commissioner’s report is available from here.