Konrad Mizzi fails to appear in PAC sitting, again

Mizzi cited parliamentary rules that allow MPs to refuse to attend committees where they are summoned as witnesses

Former Labour Minister Konrad Mizzi again failed to appear before parliament’s permanent public accounts committee (PAC) on Wednesday.

To justify his absence, Mizzi cited parliamentary rules and committee praxis.

This is the second time Mizzi failed to appear before the PAC, after he was summoned last week to testify on the Electrogas project, having piloted the project himself as energy minister.

He refused to attend the first sitting, arguing that MPs are allowed to refuse to attend committees where they are summoned as witnesses.

READ ALSOClyde Caruana says Konrad Mizzi should appear in front of PAC to answer on Electrogas

At the start of Wednesday’s meeting, PAC chairman Beppe Fenech Adami read out a letter sent to the committee earlier that day. In his letter, Mizzi reiterated that he would not be appearing before the committee as it was standard practice in previous instances when MPs were summoned before the committee.

After reading out the letter, Fenech Adami said that this was completely inaccurate. He recalled how Lawrence Gonzi, Austin Gatt, Jason Azzopardi and sitting government minister Owen Bonnici had all testified before the committee when summoned to do so.

Apart from parliamentary praxis, Mizzi cited clauses from Erskine May, the UK parliament’s rulebook, that allows British MPs not to testify in committee hearings.

There was an overall consensus in the committee that the Erskine May rule was not set in stone, at least in Maltese parliament. However, government and opposition MPs butted heads on the way forward to bring Mizzi to testify.

Nationalist MP Karol Aquilina suggested that the committee report Mizzi’s absence to the House and resolve whether Mizzi should appear before the committee.

This was shut down by government MPs, led by whip Glenn Bedingfield, who instead insisted that the Speaker should rule on the matter before the committee acts further.

This was heavily criticised by Fenech Adami, who accused the government MPs on the committee of abdicating from their duties and powers.

“The Speaker isn’t there to hold our hand,” he argued. “By taking this to the Speaker we would be weakening the strength and independence of this committee.”

When the committee came to vote on Aquilina’s suggestion, all four government MPs voted against the motion, while the three opposition MPs voted against.