Speaker Anglu Farrugia has refused to use his casting vote on whether Minister Carmelo Abela should refund €7,000 to the taxpayer after spending it on an advertising campaign aimed at boosting his personal profile ahead of a Cabinet reshuffle.
When the Standards Commissioner finds a breach of ethics, as he did in Abela’s case, his report is sent to the Parliamentary Committee for Standards in Public Life which votes on whether to adopt the report. The committee is made up of two government MPs and two Opposition MPs, giving the Speaker the casting vote.
In this evening’s session, the government and Opposition MPs voted according to party lines but the Speaker refused to give a casting vote, which is the first time this happened.
Farrugia said he agreed with some of the findings of the Standards Commissioner’s report but he also agreed that there needed to be clear guidelines on political advertising.
“Since there is a tie, I have a casting vote. I used my casting vote not to take a decision… For the report to be adopted there must be a majority, since we stayed tie, there is no majority,” Farrugia said, prompting MPs from both sides to question what this means for the case.
Labour MPs asked for the case to be declared closed and the PN MPs said that due to this tie, the case is not closed. The discussion ended abruptly because the Speaker had to address plenary.
The Abela report by Standards Commissioner George Hyzler has sparked heavy criticism from the Labour Party, including whip Glenn Bedingfield who made several allegations about Hyzler in Parliament only to have them rebutted shortly after by Hyzler himself.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Robert Abela joined the campaign against Hyzler, saying that it was time to discuss whether the office of the Standards Commissioner should be held by a former MP, though he did not elaborate on what merits this discussion.
The Labour MPs in the committee were Edward Zammit Lewis and Glenn Bedingfield. The Opposition was represented by Beppe Fenech Adami and Therese Comodini Cachia.
What do you make of Anglu Farrugia’s decision?