Opposition MPs on Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee dug into former Minister Konrad Mizzi over his refusal to attend a committee meeting and testify about the Electrogas project.
Mizzi uploaded a Facebook post this morning in which he said that he would not be attending the sitting because it was nothing but a partisan exercise.
Committee chairman Beppe Fenech Adami said that despite informing the committee’s secretary that he would be attending the sitting, Mizzi had emailed at 7am this morning to inform the committee that he would not be attending.
His decision not to attend the meeting was based on regulations that give sitting MPs and ministers the right to refuse to attend as witnesses and which prevented them from being forced to appear.
“It is a right that an MP can choose to exercise, but it is also the duty of any MP to respect us as members of the committee, to respect the highest institution in the country and the public out there,” Fenech Adami said.
“This behaviour contrasts with the entire history of this committee where other sitting MPs have been called upon to testify.”
Fenech Adami insisted that it was unprecedented for an MP or minister to refuse to testify before the committee. He ran through a list of former Nationalist ministers who had all testified before the committee when still in office. Labour Minister Owen Bonnici had also accepted to testify, he pointed out.
What followed was a brief, and awkward back and forth, about whether Mizzi was in fact the first MP to refuse to testify before the committee.
Nationalist MP Karol Aquilina suggested that the committee agree to officially declare that Mizzi’s actions were deplorable and to insist that he be called to testify before the committee.
This was rejected by government MPs, which however agreed that Mizzi should be asked to attend once again – essentially agreeing to the same course of action but omitting the condemnation.
Government MPs accused Opposition MPs of looking to gain political mileage from the issue rather than agreeing to its amended declaration.
Fenech Adami at one point insisted with Labour MPs that Mizzi’s actions had placed all parliamentarians in a bad light arguing that each and every member of the committee had an interest in condemning his actions.
Clearly uncertain about how to vote, government MPs requested that a ruling be sought from the Speaker of the House on the way forward.
A vote was eventually taken, with government MPs voting against issuing a condemnation of Mizzi. All MPs on the committee voted in favour of again calling upon Mizzi to testify before it.
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