The role of Members of Parliament

Earlier this week I requested the Auditor General to investigate the appointment of the Honourable Rosianne Cutajar as a consultant to the Chief Executive Office of the Institute for Tourism Studies (ITS).

Reading through Cutajar’s contract of employment with ITS, made public by Shift News as a result of a freedom of information application, one clearly concludes that the main areas of responsibility of consultant Cutajar were in the areas of the financial management of ITS.

She was expected to work closely with the CEO and the Institute Directors in order to prepare annual budgets, oversea quality control, establish goals, assist in day-to-day decisions, review financial and non-financial reports to devise solutions and improvements……………

Knowing that consultant Cutajar is a trained teacher of the Italian language at secondary school level it is very reasonable to assume that this contract created a phantom job, paid for from public monies.

In view of this logical conclusion I requested the Auditor General to investigate the  ITS and its management as at the end of the day it is the ITS CEO who is responsible for this state of affairs. He should answer for his actions and explain matters to the auditor general’s investigation team.

The creation of phantom jobs at the public sector is done to benefit blue-eyed boys and girls as payment for services rendered elsewhere. Rosianna Cutajar’s phantom job is not the only one we know of. Do you remember Melvin Theuma, the guy who brokered the murderof Daphne Caruana Galizia? He too was given a phantom job in the public sector, thanking him for services rendered.

Why isn’t Rosianne Cutajar (at the point of writing still a Member of Parliament) focused on her duties as a Member of Parliament? She seems to have so much time on her hands that, in addition to her “Parliamentary duties” she can dedicate a minimum of 24 hours every week to her ITS consultancy work, against payment of €27,000 per annum.

The problem is even bigger than that, as she is expected, as part of her parliamentary duties, to monitor the ITS and to hold the Hon Minister of Tourism accountable for their performance.  How can she do this when she is involved in all this as a result of her consultancy? I am not aware that she ever withdrew from a parliamentary debate on tourism on the grounds of conflict of interest!

This problem is not restricted to consultant Cutajar. It has in fact, particularly since 2013, been generally applicable to the Labour party parliamentary group in view of the amendments to various laws which permitted the appointment of sitting MPs to various posts. We have had Deo Debattista and Manwel Mallia who were appointed as Chairpersons of the Health and Safety Authority or Konrad Mizzi who on being fired as Minister for Tourism was appointed as consultant to the Tourism Authority on the express instructions of then Premier Joseph Muscat as attested to by the investigation concluded at my request by the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life.

In addition, there have been a substantial number of other appointments of MPs as advisors in various roles. At a point in time, as emphasised by the then Commissioner for Standards in Public Life in a 2019 report, two-thirds of all backbench MPs held appointments in or contracts with the public sector.

It is not the role or function of a sitting MP to advise a government department or a public authority, even if he or she is qualified to do so.  A Member of Parliament should sit in Parliament to legislate, to protect the public purse and to hold government to account continuously. This is the duty of each MP.

Over the years parliament has shown itself to be incapable of doing its duty and as a result has left the ever-growing Cabinet free to do what it likes, knowing that no one will effectively hold it to account.

Our Parliamentarians are part-timers. Their full-time employment takes up most of their time and energies. The result is what we can all see, day in day out: an ineffective parliament with Parliamentarians like Rosianne Cutajar seeking phantom jobs, when she is not brokering the sale of properties and pocketing the relative commissions!

Isn’t it about time that Members of Parliament are full-timers?

Carmel Cacopardo
ADPD Chairperson
Published in The Malta Independent – Sunday 2 April 2023