In an evaluation report published today, the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) assesses the effectiveness of the framework in place in Malta to prevent corruption amongst persons with top executive functions (ministers and other senior government officials) and the Maltese Police Force.
GRECO notes that Malta has on paper an impressive arsenal of public institutions involved in checks and balances but their effectiveness is being questioned in recent years due to a wave of controversies concerning the integrity of senior government officials in relation to the use of state resources and privatisations, tenders, energy supply, the sale of land, the award of contracts and public positions.
GRECO highlights that, to date, there has been no visible disciplinary or criminal justice response to a number of these allegations, even when some of them have been confirmed by subsequent audits, for instance, of the National Audit Office. The most sophisticated mechanisms and the many specialist and collegial supervisory bodies are of little use if they are themselves unaccountable and/or ineffective.
Furthermore GRECO underlines that the country lacks an overall strategy, a coherent risk-based approach, when it comes to integrity standards for government officials and a system of sanctions. GRECO calls for stricter rules and their enforcement on ancillary business and other activities of top officials, conflicts of interest and declarations of assets.
The report also states that important reforms are needed to increase the capacity of the criminal justice system to respond to allegations involving senior officials. Certain institutions, such as the Permanent Commission against Corruption, have not produced concrete results after 30 years of existence.
The Commissioner for Standards in Public Life, established in 2018 to enforce integrity standards, deserves a better fate.
GRECO welcomes the appointment in 2017 of a Chief Executive Officer to modernise human resources management in the Maltese Police Force and to implement policies aimed at preserving trust in the corps. GRECO’s report lists a number of desirable improvements, including more robust and up-dated ethical standards, a clear merit-based approach for career decisions and promotions, the introduction of a communication policy (to develop a culture of accountability, amongst other objectives) and a stronger training system. The Independent Police Complaints Board needs to be strengthened and a policy on reporting and disclosures of misbehaviour by the police must be developed, which would include protective measures for whistle-blowers.
“This report is a call for action: I look forward to the swift implementation of GRECO recommendations by the Maltese authorities” said GRECO’s President Marin Mrčela.
The implementation of the 23 recommendations addressed to Malta will be assessed by GRECO in the beginning of 2021 through its specific compliance procedure.