15 Sep 2023

The Commissioner for Standards in Public Life has concluded that ministers or parliamentary secretaries who used an official ministry activity for personal self-promotion would be in breach of ethics.

The Standards Commissioner came to this conclusion after considering a complaint alleging that Parliamentary Secretary Alicia Bugeja Said had invited employees of her ministry to a political event organised by her. It was also alleged that she was in a conflict of interest because she had organised the event with support from the tuna industry, which she is responsible for regulating.

However, it turned out that the event had been organised as an official team-building activity for ministry employees. Although the event involved a visit to fish farms, the only contribution of the fish farm operators was to transport participants from the shore to the fish farms and to explain how they operated.

The Commissioner therefore ruled that there was no conflict of interest on the part of the Hon. Bugeja Said, but she was still in breach of ethics because she had used her name and political logo in a poster which she had sent to employees to inform them about the activity. The Commissioner informed the Hon. Bugeja Said that using her name in promotional material for an official activity would give the impression that she was trying to take personal credit for that activity in the public eye. Such a situation was to be avoided.

The Commissioner therefore requested the Hon. Bugeja Said to submit an apology and a commitment to avoid repeating such conduct. She replied by means of a letter in which she apologised and undertook to avoid such occurrences in future. On the basis of this apology the Commissioner closed the case under article 22(5) of the Standards in Public Life Act. This article empowers the Commissioner to close a case if it is not of a grave nature and the person investigated remedies the breach of ethics in a manner the Commissioner considers satisfactory.

The Commissioner’s report on this case is available from here.