The report by the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life in the case of the allocation of public funds for alleged political advertising in print media (K/028) following Repubblika’s complaint of 19 October 2020 about advertising purchased by the Ministry of Carmelo Abela to promote Carmelo Abela, refers to “two previous cases in which it was alleged that public resources were being used by Ministers for self-promotional purposes.”
Although it is not for us a matter of ambiguity that the use of public funds for personal promotion is unacceptable use of public money and a breach of existing codes of ethics, a consensus has emerged that Ministers and public entities need specific guidelines and procedures with regard to appropriate expenditure in advertising.
In spite of the fact that that consensus includes public remarks made by the Prime Minister and the Speaker, who both underlined their agreement for the need of these guidelines, we have seen no evidence of urgency in adopting such rules. In the meantime, people’s letter-boxes are being stuffed by personal publicity of ministers evidently paid for by taxpayers through the ministry’s budget. And expenditure in the media, particularly print media, on a discretionary and discriminatory basis is rampant.
In order to help facilitate the process, meet the outcome that the Prime Minister and the Speaker have publicly said they desire, and avoid any further waste of public money, Repubblika is taking the initiative of proposing a set of draft guidelines.
This draft is based on widely available international models. We have specifically consulted best practice models including in particular guidelines by the government of the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. We have also reviewed relevant rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and recommendations by the Organisation of American States.