Economy Minister Silvio Schembri has declared that he has never used a single cent of public funds to promote posts on his personal Facebook page.
“I would have no problem refunding public funds spent on Facebook boosts because I haven’t spent a cent of public funds,” he said at a press conference today. “Some MPs are trying to get people confused but I already stated in a parliamentary question that [I never used public funds on my personal Facebook page].”
Standards in Public Life Commissioner George Hyzler yesterday published a report into the way Cabinet members use their social media pages, following a request for an investigation by Lovin Malta’s CEO Chris Peregin.
He found widespread abuse, with ministers and parliamentary sectaries often producing videos solely for their personal Facebook pages, with the use of ministry logos strongly suggesting public funds were used.
Hyzler analysed Schembri’s Facebook page as part of a sample of five ministers. Although he didn’t find the minister had used public funds to boost posts on his page, he did find that he had probably used public resources to create a video designed specifically for his personal page last February.
Noting that the video included the Economy Ministry’s official logo, Hyzler said this suggests it was produced for his personal page using official resources, an example of bad practice.
“Since the video does not appear on any official channel, I can only conclude that the video was produced specifically for Minister Schembri’s personal Facebook page, which represents misuse of public resources,” he wrote. “Minister Schembri did not reply to my request for an explanation.”
“The same video ends with Minister Schembri’s personal logo, as shown in the screenshot below, indicating what appears to be the lack of any clear distinction between the official and personal spheres.”
Hyzler and the government have since agreed on a new set of guidelines on which posts can be uploaded to ministers’ personal pages and which must be uploaded to official ministry pages.
The guidelines stipulate that public funds and resources can only be used to boost posts uploaded by official ministry pages.