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The outcome of a long, arduous back-and-forth between GRECO – the Council of Europe’s eminent anti-corruption body – and the Maltese government, a process which began in March 2017, led to the adoption of a final report containing 23 recommendations in March 2019, and has now been fully reviewed a second time by the same anti-corruption body, should leave readers deeply concerned about the government’s steadfast refusal to cooperate.

While the Labour Party’s propaganda outlets were quick to spin the report’s contents as a positive endorsement of the government’s efforts to implement GRECO’s recommendations, a careful, detailed review of the report clearly suggests otherwise.

In its second review of the Maltese government’s progress in adopting the 23 recommendations GRECO had originally laid out, the special rapporteurs who were appointed to carry out Malta’s compliance review – Sorin Tanase and Antonio Delicado – concluded that Malta has fully implemented four recommendations, partially implemented – with varying degrees of success – ten recommendations, and has failed to implement nine recommendations.

Below, you can find a profile database containing a brief, concise explanation of what each recommendation consisted of. You can use the drop-down menu beneath the title to select whether you want to view all the recommendations or whether you want to view a specific category (implemented, partially implemented, not implemented). You can also click each individual recommendation to enlarge the image and text.

For context, scroll below the profile database to find a brief outline of what was uncovered by GRECO’s seven year review of Malta’s failure to implement the majority of these recommendations. Click here for an enlarged version of the profile database.

What did the Maltese government implement?

Briefly explained, three out of four of the GRECO recommendations that the Maltese government fully implemented were related to policy and strategy matters within the Malta Police Force, with one other recommendation referring to the development of a policy strategy that would provide additional scrutiny of the management of public resources such as taxpayer money.

Prior GRECO’s second review of Malta’s compliance progress, the police force had updated its standards of conduct and ethics, provided more integrity and awareness training to its officers, and drafted a compliant media communication policy, all of which received GRECO’s seal of approval.

As for the development of a public resource management strategy, the government referred GRECO’s rapporteurs to its updated National Anti-Fraud and Corruption Strategy (NAFCS) as well as the gradual increases in annual budgetary allocations for key oversight institutions like the Office of the Ombudsman, the National Audit Office, the Office of the Standards Commissioner, and the government’s Internal Audit and Investigations Department, as examples of its efforts to implement the recommendation.

While GRECO had previously found this recommendation to be partially implemented, the rapporteurs found that by the time the second compliance review was concluded, the Maltese government had satisfactorily addressed the recommendation.

What did the Maltese government (sort of, but not really) implement?

Persons of trust: the Maltese government did introduce legislation which defines what a person of trust is but did not introduce additional legislation which ensures that the number of individuals employed in such positions is kept to a bare minimum.

Integrity requirements (public officials): while a training programme known as the Integrity and Ethics Awareness Learning Programme was implemented across various departments within the public service, persons with top executive functions are not subjected to this programme. In addition, GRECO’s rapporteurs noted that the government has failed to provide information about how it is documenting whether its public officials are actually observing the integrity requirements promoted by this programme.

Disclosure of draft legislation, appropriate consultation: while GRECO’s rapporteurs did note “some promising practical steps” such as the updated, improved public consultation online portal, they nonetheless observed that “the information provided (by the government) does not address key issues underlined in the recommendation”, namely that the government should publish specific, narrow criteria for the exclusion of the need for public consultation and that the outcome of all public consultations should be published online in an effective, timely manner.

Active criminal investigation, prosecution: while the government did transfer certain prosecutorial duties to the office of the Attorney General, which was part of GRECO’s original set of recommendations, the rapporteurs noted that the process is not yet complete and that to date, “no cases of investigations into corruption offences involving persons with top executive functions leading to convictions have been reported”.

Police policy reforms: five recommendations related to reforming the police force were partially implemented by the government.

In terms of the force’s anti-corruption strategy, while the rapporteurs did positively note the implementation of a register of gifts and gratuities, along with the creation of a dedicated integrity and internal audit office within the corps, the police force failed to put in place “a robust set of rules, effective compliance, merit-based career systems, sufficient operational independence and political neutrality, as well as increased awareness and gender balance”.

The police force has also failed to fully implement an applicable policy which effectively enforces a set of fair, objective criteria for promotions within the corps. While the rapporteurs positively noted that the police was routinely applying its newly established Policy and Procedure regulating Business Interests and Additional Occupations, the corps failed to establish explicit, airtight criteria for these kinds of external police officer activities.

As for the Independent Police Complaints Board, which has been verified as active since it was set up in 2020, the rapporteurs concluded that they did not have enough information at hand to determine whether the board has been allocated enough resources, whether its independence is guaranteed, and whether the general public’s accessibility to the information uncovered by the board is adequate.

While the rapporteurs did note that the police force’s newly established channels for internal corruption reporting seemed to be in use, the government failed to shed any light on what the outcome of these internal reports is. The government also failed to explain what kind of protection it is providing to officers who shed light on corruption within the police corps.

Conflict of interest management: while the government did implement a directive regulating conflict of interest – known as the ‘Governing Framework for Preventing and Managing Conflicts of Interest in the Public Administration’ – the rapporteurs noted that the directive did not enter into force, even though it was formally adopted on 27 November, 2023. The directive’s text has not been made available to the rapporteurs for review.

What did the Maltese government fail to implement?

FOI Act (tightening grounds for refusal): while GRECO had previously noted that there seemed to be some tangible progress in regard to this recommendation, the lack of any further progress over four years has led the rapporteurs to reverse its previous conclusion that this recommendation had been implemented, effectively marking a regression in the government’s commitment to reforming the FOI Act.

Risk-sensitive integrity strategy, straight from the horse’s mouth: “…it would appear that no risk assessment has been carried out, and that the anti-corruption integrity strategy has not been adopted. GRECO calls upon the Maltese authorities to step up their efforts to put in place a comprehensive anti-corruption and integrity strategy, covering all persons with top executive functions, with no further delay.”

Standards Commissioner: the report notes that the government has refused to consider the possibility of hiving off one of two of the Standards Commissioner’s main functions i.e.: the provision of confidential advice while also enforcing the laws which are regulated by the same office. Additionally, the government has failed to submit itself to routine scrutiny from the Commissioner’s office, with investigations into wrongdoing usually only occurring after a private individual files a report about a suspected breach of ethics.

Lobbyist regulations: the rapporteurs noted the Maltese government’s total refusal to regulate the way in which lobby groups interact with ministers and other high-ranking public officials.

Regulation of ‘side activities’ of persons with top executive functions: while the government did state that these activities are regulated by the same directive referred to above (see section titled ‘conflict of interest management’), given that there has been no visibility on the text itself and that it is not yet in force, the rapporteurs concluded that this recommendation has not been implemented.

Asset and interest declarations: GRECO rapporteurs emphasised their concerns about the fact that the government has not taken any tangible measures to tighten the criteria required for asset and interest declarations from MPs as well as government executives, noting that the lack of information accessibility, the lack of proactive and effective verification, and the lack of dissuasive sanctions for violations as key issues which remain unaddressed.

Special investigative techniques for corruption cases: significantly, the Maltese government outright refused to implement this recommendation, refusing to even consider the possibility of carrying out a legal analysis which would assess what the regulatory framework for the deployment of such special investigative techniques could look like. The report further notes that “one of the main factors for the inefficiency of the Maltese criminal justice system to effectively investigate allegations of possible involvement of persons with top executive functions in corruption offences” is the fact that the government has refused to take this recommendation on board.

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