The Commissioner for Standards in Public Life has concluded that Transport Minister Ian Borg did not commit a breach of ethics when he commissioned an advertisement to wish the public a Happy Easter.
Independent candidate Arnold Cassola had requested Hyzler to investigate the advert, which appeared in the newspaper It-Torċa on Easter Sunday, 4th April 2021, and included a photograph of the minister with the following text:
“The Ministry for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects wishes a Happy Easter to the people of Malta and Gozo. Work in our communities will continue so we can keep providing a better quality of life.”
The text was accompanied by Malta’s national coat of arms.
Cassola argued that the advert shouldn’t have been for with public funds. If, on the other hand, the advert had been paid for by the Minister, Cassola stated that it should not have included the national coat of arms.
It emerged from the Standards Commissioner’s investigation that the advert, which cost €82.60, had been commissioned and paid for by Borg personally, and not through the ministry.
This was verified by the Commissioner from the invoice and receipt for payment, which were presented to him by Borg.
In addition, the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary confirmed that no payments were made by the ministry in connection with the advert.
Borg informed the Commissioner that the coat of arms had been included in the advert by mistake. The Commissioner observed that the advert should have been issued in the name of the Minister, not the ministry, but he accepted that this too was a mistake.
The commissioner noted that once the Minister had paid for the advert himself, he had nothing to gain by issuing it in the name of the ministry rather than in his own name.
Cassola responded to Hyzler’s conclusion by warning him that he is being “too good and naive with a shark such as Minister Borg” but that, despite this disagreement, the Commissioner still enjoyed his respect and confidence.
Do you think the complaint was warranted?