Disgraced Minister Konrad Mizzi has once again refused to appear before Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.
The meeting started at 3pm, at which point the committee’s chairman Beppe Fenech Adami said that Mizzi had been informed that the committee was asking him to testify before it once again.
Fenech Adami said that while the invitation was sent to Fenech Adami immediately after last week’s meeting, he had only informed it that he did not intend to appear at 9.40am this morning.
Mizzi, Fenech Adami said, had cited the same reasons he did last week for his refusal to appear before the committee, namely that according to Parliament’s rules of procedure, MPs could choose to not appear before the committee when summoned.
Mizzi remarked in his communication to the committee that his choice not to appear before the court was consistent with standard practice.
Fenech Adami said he had researched the issue and found that the opposite was in fact true and that several other cabinet ministers and sitting MPs had given their testimony before the committee.
“Konrad Mizzi is being of a disservice to this institution, politics and MPs from both sides of the House,” Fenech Adami said.
Fenech Adami said that Mizzi had also claimed that his actions were in line with Erskine May’s guide to parliamentary practice, with Fenech Adami again dismissing Mizzi’s claim.
Last week, MPs representing both the government and the Opposition agreed that Mizzi should appear before the committee to answer questions on the Electrogas project, which is currently under discussion.
Labour MP and government whip Glenn Bedingfield noted that given that Mizzi had cited rules on parliamentary procedure, there was nothing more that could be done.
Nationalist MP Karol Aquilina however said he had researched the issue and found that the guidelines refer to Erskine May’s parliamentary procedure guidelines, which states that the right not to appear before the committee is not absolute.
He pointed to cases in the UK’s House of Commons in which MPs had refused to appear before a committee and were forced to do so after it voted in favour of a resolution to force them to do so. Malta’s Parliament operates on the same guidelines used in the UK.
Labour MP Alex Muscat suggested that the matter be forwarded to the Speaker of the House for a ruling, however, the Opposition’s MPs rebutted by insisting that the guidelines clearly gave the committee the power to resolve the issue itself.
The meeting is currently suspended on the request of the government’s MPs in order for them to read through the guidelines and decide on a position.
Upon their return, government MPs said that the guidelines were not definitive when it came to the course of action that needed to be pursued, and insisted that a ruling was required from the Speaker. Aquilina insisted that a vote would nonetheless be taken.
Government MPs voted against the motion because they did not agree with Aquilina’s interpretation of the guidelines.
Mizzi has kept a low profile since his removal from his ministerial portfolio and his expulsion from the Labour Party.
He made a brief appearance on Monday for Finance Minister’s Clyde Caruana’s budget speech.
What do you make of Mizzi’s no-show?