20 Jan 2022

The Commissioner for Standards in Public Life has concluded that Minister Ian Borg did not commit a breach of ethics when he commissioned an advertisement to wish the public a happy Easter.

The advert in question appeared in the newspaper It-Torċa on Easter Sunday, 4 April 2021. It included a photograph of Minister Ian Borg and the text “The Ministry for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects wishes a happy Easter to the people of Malta and Gozo. Work in our communities will continue so we can keep providing a better quality of life.” The advert also featured Malta’s national coat of arms.

Prof. Arnold Cassola complained to the Commissioner about the advert on the grounds that it should not have been paid for with public funds. Prof. Cassola also stated that if, on the other hand, the advert had been paid for personally by Minister Ian Borg, it should not have included the national coat of arms.

It emerged from the Standards Commissioner’s investigation that the advert, which cost €82.60, had been commissioned and paid for by Minister Borg personally, not through his ministry. This was verified by the Commissioner from the invoice and the receipt for payment, which were presented to him by Minister Borg. In addition, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry confirmed that no payments had been made by the ministry in connection with the advert.

Minister Borg informed the Commissioner that the coat of arms had been included in the advert by mistake. The Commissioner observed that the advert should have been issued in the name of the Minister, not the ministry, but he accepted that this too was a mistake. The Commissioner noted that once the Minister had paid for the advert himself, he had nothing to gain by issuing it in the name of his ministry rather than in his own name.

The Commissioner therefore concluded that there had been no breach of ethics in this case, and he dismissed the complaint.

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