The role of the Standards Commissioner
The Commissioner for Standards in Public Life is appointed by the President of Malta on the basis of a resolution of Parliament that must be supported by at least two thirds of all members of Parliament.
The role of the Commissioner is defined by the Standards in Public Life Act (chapter 570 of the laws of Malta). The Act gives the Commissioner jurisdiction over three categories of people:
- ministers and parliamentary secretaries (or junior ministers);
- other members of Parliament; and
- persons of trust – that is to say persons who are engaged in the private secretariat of a minister or parliamentary secretary, and who serve in an advisory, consultative or executive capacity.
The Standards Commissioner can consider whether ministers, parliamentary secretaries or members of Parliament have acted in ways that:
- are against the law;
- are in breach of any ethical or other duty set out by law; or
- constitute an abuse of power.
The Commissioner can consider whether persons of trust have breached their ethical obligations.
The Act obliges people in all three categories to abide by rules of ethical conduct. The Act itself sets out a code of ethics for ministers and parliamentary secretaries and another code for members of Parliament. The Act obliges persons of trust to observe the code of ethics set out in another law, the Public Administration Act (chapter 595 of the laws of Malta). These codes of ethics can be downloaded from the resources page of this website.
The Standards Commissioner can open an investigation on his own initiative or on the basis of a complaint. However, the Commissioner cannot investigate cases that occurred before 30 October 2018 (the day the Standards in Public Life Act came into force). Nor can he investigate cases that are the subject of legal proceedings or that are already under investigation by the police.
If the Commissioner finds that a minister, parliamentary secretary, member of Parliament or person of trust has acted improperly, he can give that person a time limit within which to remedy his or her actions, or he can make a report to the parliamentary Standing Committee for Standards in Public Life.
In addition to considering such cases, the Commissioner can examine the declarations of assets and interests made by members of Parliament and ministers in terms of the relevant code of ethics.
The Commissioner can also make recommendations for the improvement of the relevant codes of ethics and the better regulation of related matters, such as lobbying and the acceptance of gifts. The office of the Commissioner is currently researching these matters.
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