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Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government sometimes implemented the law effectively. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: On May 21, police arrested Antonino Candela, Sicily’s COVID-19 emergency coordinator and former director of the Palermo provincial health authority. He was arrested along with nine others for alleged corruption and rigging of health sector tenders for medical equipment worth 600 million euros ($720 million) in exchange for promised bribes amounting to approximately 1.8 million euros ($2.2 million).

Financial Disclosure: The law requires members of parliament to disclose their assets and incomes. The two parliamentary chambers publish a bulletin containing parliamentarians’ information (if agreed to by each member of parliament) on their public websites. The law stipulates that the president of each chamber may order noncompliant members to submit their statements within 15 days of their request but provides for no other penalties. Ministers must disclose their information online.


Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively against low-level corruption. Allegations of high-level government corruption continued during the year. Rule of law concerns over the government’s lack of criminal prosecutions and convictions for tax evasion and money laundering persisted, although both the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit and the Malta Financial Services Authority stepped up oversight and enforcement.

Between July 2019 and August, the government enacted reforms, including constitutional amendments and legislation, to strengthen provisions of the law against corruption. The reform measures included the establishment of a legal framework to facilitate the dissolution of a credit institution to prevent money laundering and the funding of terrorism; the revision of the method for appointing the chairman and the members of the Permanent Commission against Corruption; and a law that transposes into Maltese law EU directives on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purposes of money laundering or terrorist financing.

Corruption: There were developments during the year on allegations of high-level government corruption stemming from international investigations into Pilatus Bank, established in the country in 2014, and the work of investigative reporter Caruana Galizia. Before Caruana Galizia was killed, she alleged the prime minister’s wife was the ultimate beneficial owner of a Panamanian offshore account connected to transactions involving Pilatus, and she was investigating separate government corruption allegations that the prime minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, and former energy minister Konrad Mizzi took part in a 1.8 million euro ($2.2 million) kickback scheme related to an energy deal with the consortium Electrogas. Both Schembri and Mizzi resigned in November 2019. In September a continued public inquiry into the death of Caruana Galizia showed the government authorized a 40-million-euro ($48 million) tax and excise exemption for Electrogas.

In the wake of the developments in the Caruana Galizia case in November 2019 and protests by civil society calling for his resignation, former prime minister Muscat stepped down on January 12. Prime Minister Robert Abela was elected to replace him on January 13. In November 2019 police arrested business magnate and former Electrogas board member Yorgen Fenech, eventually charging him in court with several violations in connection with the Caruana Galizia murder case. The arrest followed a presidential pardon granted to an alleged middleman, Melvin Theuma, who revealed information about Caruana Galizia’s killing.

In a July report, the auditor general noted that correspondence indicated collusion between government officials and representatives of Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) over a government contract. This followed a November 2019 court decision to reverse earlier rulings and begin a criminal inquiry into the roles of ministers Edward Scicluna, Christian Cardona, and Konrad Mizzi in the VGH deal.

On August 24, police investigators working on the journalist’s murder case interrogated former prime minister Joseph Muscat. In September, Keith Schembri was arrested and subsequently released on bail for allegedly receiving kickbacks amounting to 100,000 euros ($120,000) for Malta’s Individual Investors Program, a citizenship-in-exchange-for-investment scheme, from financial and business advisory services firm Nexia BT. On November 11, police released former Minister Konrad Mizzi and Schembri following fresh interrogations by police investigating financial crimes and money laundering. Both are reportedly still under investigation but have not yet been formally charged.

Financial Disclosure: Government officials are subject to financial disclosure laws, and declarations are available to the public. Courts can compel disclosure from officials not complying with the regulation.


Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties of up to 12 years’ imprisonment and confiscation of the convicted persons’ property for official corruption. Nevertheless, transparency civil society organizations stated the government did not implement the law effectively. Officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity, and many corruption cases remained pending for years.

Corruption: Media reported numerous cases of government corruption, most notably the April 7 arrest of four senior Office of the Prime Minister officials managing relief aid for the COVID-19 response, following an investigation by the Anti-Corruption Unit. The state charged the four, including the Permanent Secretary, Christine Guwatudde and Commissioner for Disaster Preparedness and Management Martin Owor, in the Anti-Corruption Court with inflating prices of COVID-19 food relief items. As part of the investigation, on April 11, police searched Owor’s private residence and found food and nonfood relief items, including items the government had designated for 2019 mudslide victims.

President Museveni dismissed or moved a number of high-level officials following corruption allegations. For example, on July 21, Museveni ordered the dismissal of eight senior EC officials. Media reported the firings were a result of corruption by the individuals during the procurement of election materials for the 2021 election. Opposition politicians, however, told media that Museveni actually fired the individuals because they did not procure the services of the company he preferred, alleging electoral malpractice. The EC chairperson denied all allegations, stating the eight had chosen to retire. Anticorruption activists said while high-profile individuals were fired, the government had not initiated legal proceedings, so the officials faced few material consequences.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires public officials to disclose their income, assets, and liabilities, and those of their spouses, children, and dependents, within three months of assuming office, and every two years thereafter. The requirement applies to 42 position classifications, totaling approximately 25,000 officials, including ministers, members of parliament, political party leaders, judicial officers, permanent secretaries, and government department heads, among others. Public officials who leave office six or more months after their most recent financial declaration are required to refile. The Inspector General of Government is responsible for monitoring compliance with the declaration requirements, and penalties include a warning, demotion, and dismissal.

United Kingdom

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government implemented the law effectively. There were no reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: In March the findings of an official inquiry into allegations of large-scale corruption that led to the collapse of the Northern Ireland government in 2017 did not identify any individuals as being at fault for the costly program. It did, however, determine the initiative was poorly conceived, fiscally irresponsible, and the consequence of political negligence and administrative incompetence rather than corrupt practices.

Financial Disclosure: All MPs are required to disclose their financial interests. The Register of Members Interests was available online and updated regularly. These public disclosures include paid employment, property ownership, shareholdings in public or private companies, and other interests that “might reasonably be thought to influence” the member in any way. The Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, the Northern Ireland Assembly, and the Bermudian Parliament have similar codes of conduct for members. The ministerial code issued by the Prime Minister’s Office sets standards of conduct, including on the disclosure of gifts and travel. The national government publishes the names, grades, job titles, and annual pay rates of most civil servants with salaries greater than 150,000 pounds ($198,000). Government departments publish the business expenses of their most senior officials and hospitality received by them.

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