Malta

   

Executive Accountability

#23
Key Findings
Reflecting several notable weaknesses, Malta’s overall score for executive accountability falls into the middle ranks internationally (rank 23). Its score on this measure has improved by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

The part-time parliament has insufficient resources and comparatively weak executive-oversight powers, though a recently passed act gives it greater control over budget decisions. The audit office is independent and active, while the ombudsman is highly esteemed but has limited powers. The data-protection authority is effective and independent.

While media competition has improved public access to information, the primary media outlets are dominated by the country’s two political parties. Infotainment programming remains widespread. Public trust in the local media is very low. A large amount of policy information is easily accessible.

Political parties are giving members a growing voice in the selection of leaders, and are increasingly looking to civil society for agenda ideas. Economic-interest groups are usually capable of formulating relevant policies, but rarely act proactively. Non-economic groups too are typically reactive, but have played a key government-advisory role on issues such as migration.

Citizens’ Participatory Competence

#22

To what extent are citizens informed of public policies?

10
 9

Most citizens are well-informed of a broad range of public policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many citizens are well-informed of individual public policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few citizens are well-informed of public policies; most citizens have only a rudimental knowledge of public policies.
 2
 1

Most citizens are not aware of public policies.
Political Knowledge
6
A relatively large amount of policy information is made available to citizens, and this information is in general easily accessible. Several channels exist for this purpose. There is a Freedom of Information, but restrictions mean that information requested is not always available. The ministries received 402 requests from media organizations and members of the public between 2015 and 2017. Under the Freedom of Information Act, 54% of these were upheld in part or in full. Access to contracts between government and private investors remains problematic. The National Statistics Office and the Department of Information regularly make information available to citizens, as do the Ombudsman and the National Audit Office. Some of the more complete reports assessing government policy however come from the European Commission. Competition between media outlets has improved public access to information with leading media outlets hosting their own investigative television series. The June 2019 Eurobarometer Survey found that the public’s levels of trust in the media were very low, at 24%, but there was also an above-average level of trust in Maltese political institutions, including parliament, the police and the army. This former weakness can be partially attributed to misinformation or a lack of information on key policy areas; the Central Link Project, a controversial road-upgrade project, is one such example. A better informational campaign on the impact of these new roads on the ecosystem was warranted. A 2019 EU Commission paper indicates that percentage of individuals using the internet to interact with government authorities is below the EU average; however, the share of those using it to obtain information is close to the EU average,

Citations:
Maltese more likely to trust government than the media study shows, Times of Malta 02/06/17
Standard Eurobarometre 86 Autumn 2016 Media use in the European Union
Standard Eurobarometre 88 Autumn 2017 Media use in the European Union
Over 400 freedom of information requests in three years. Times of Malta 30/11/17
https://www.independent.com.mt/articles/2019-02-20/local-news/Maltese-people-trust-political-parties-more-than-the-written-press-Eurobarometer-survey-6736203951
Times of Malta 04/09/2019 Central link trees to remain for a little while longer
European Commission Digital Government Fact sheet 2019 Malta
European Commission Standard Eurobarometer 91 June 2019

Does the government publish data and information in a way that strengthens citizens’ capacity to hold the government accountable?

10
 9

The government publishes data and information in a comprehensive, timely and user-friendly way.
 8
 7
 6


The government most of the time publishes data and information in a comprehensive, timely and user-friendly way.
 5
 4
 3


The government publishes data in a limited and not timely or user-friendly way.
 2
 1

The government publishes (almost) no relevant data.
Open Government
5
Malta provides a mixed picture with regard to open-government issues. Since the country obtained EU membership, governments have found themselves increasingly pressured to provide information through more open and transparent channels. Malta has a Whistleblower Act. The National Statistics Office (NSO), reformed in the late 1990s in response to Malta’s EU membership bid, and reformed again in 2015, regularly makes freely accessible information available on various matters. The NSO also responds to researchers and the media seeking access to information relating to a great diversity of subjects. However, the NSO statistics tend to be used by government entities more than by the media or the public. Every ministry, department, public corporation and public sector board must publish annual reports and information on their websites. Hence, a vast quantity of information can be accessed online through government websites or EU portals. Furthermore, as noted elsewhere, information can be obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. However, this remains contested territory. In 2018, there were 367 requests for information, 198 of which received a response and 31 of which were still being processed as of the time of writing. Governments tend to be reluctant to publish public contracts, citing commercial sensitivity. This can be valid in some cases, but is not in others. A recent information request by the parliament was refused, with a response indicating there were insufficient human resources available to collect the data. The data commissioner, who had to adjudicate a case relating to documents pertaining to the Vitals hospital deal, was not allowed to view the documents in question. The new commissioner for standards in public life recently criticized government ministries for inviting only selected journalists to certain public events. However, the evident capacity of hackers to infiltrate government systems should demonstrate that secrecy is no longer an option. In 2017, the Ombudsman reported that the public administration and public authorities generally have a negative attitude toward disclosing information; this remains a challenge today, undermining the overall openness and transparency of the public administration.

Citations:
Ministers should not only invite selected journalists to public events standards commissioner says. Times of Malta 06/02/19
‘Humanly impossible’ to establish number of vacant state properties Times of Malta 05/02/19
2017 Parliamentary Ombudsman Report
Times of Malta 16/10/19 Court rejects Times request for hospital deal documents
Ministry of Justice Annual Report 2018

Legislative Actors’ Resources

#38

Do members of parliament have adequate personnel and structural resources to monitor government activity effectively?

10
 9

The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring all government activity effectively.
 8
 7
 6


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring a government’s major activities.
 5
 4
 3


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for selectively monitoring some government activities.
 2
 1

The resources provided to the members of parliament are not suited for any effective monitoring of the government.
Parliamentary Resources
5
The passage of a new act in 2016 giving parliament financial autonomy over its internal budget decisions (the Parliamentary Services Act), and an increase in funding in the 2017 and 2018 budgets, has left members of parliament in Malta with more resources than previously. Members of permanent parliamentary committees enjoy support from newly appointed research officers as well as academics and specialists. Greater participation of members of parliament in international conferences has helped bridge the resource gap, but more is required. These developments have improved the process for evaluating EU legislation and other social issues. Additional resources must be allocated to the parliamentary scrutiny committee dealing with pipeline aquis. Furthermore, despite improvements, legislators have too few resources to support their legislative work. In 2020, the opposition leader made a request for more parliamentary resources. Staff members are too few in number, and fully occupied by their primary duties. Members of parliament do not give up their private professional activities, since their role as legislator is a part-time occupation. This results in constraints on the amount of time dedicated to parliamentary business, and may also produce conflicts of interest. Members of parliament can now be fined for not attending sittings. The prime minister is pushing harder for a switch to a full-time parliament, but this, along with any change to current remuneration levels, would require consensus among a majority of the members of parliament. The practice of back-bench lawmakers sitting on government boards or working in government departments, and large cabinets that include a majority of government-party parliamentarians, also undermines their ability to monitor the government effectively.

Citations:
Camilleri, I. Parliament is out of touch with Brussels. No feedback to Brussels’ documents. Times of Malta 14/06/11
Its too early to talk about what is in store for me Times of Malta 11/10/2015
MPs express different opinions on pay rise for politicians, full-time parliament proposals. Malta Today 6/01/2015
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160111/local/new-law-will-make-parliaments-administration-autonomous-of-the.598431
Parliamentary service Act Chapter 562 ACTXL11 of 2016
Most PN proposals to improve parliamentary work included in PL manifesto – government Times of Malta 19/08/17
The PN has seven suggestions for a better functioning parliament Times of Malta 18/08/17
Speaker concerned about incomplete security coverage around parliament. Times of Malta 30/11/17
Times of Malta 22/01/2020 Executives dominance of Parliament
Times of Malta 20/01/20 PN requests more parliamentary resources

Are parliamentary committees able to ask for government documents?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may ask for most or all government documents; they are normally delivered in full and within an appropriate time frame.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are slightly limited; some important documents are not delivered or are delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are considerably limited; most important documents are not delivered or delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not request government documents.
Obtaining Documents
4
Parliamentary committees may request documents from the government, though the government is not obliged to comply. For example, the government could refuse to release documents, because the documents could contain commercially sensitive information or it is too soon to make the information public. Numerous Ombudsman reports have stressed the need for more openness. The speaker of the house has made a number of rulings on the issue of documents being made available to the house. One avenue for obtaining information is through the NAO, which produces reports following a request from the Parliamentary Accounts Committee. Another is through the parliamentary question and ministerial statement processes.

Citations:
Said Pullicino, J (ed) 2015 The State’s Duty to Inform Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman
Annual Report 2015 Parliamentary Ombudsman
How the rule of law is being undermined Times of Malta 23/10/17
Ruling delivered by the speaker following the request for tabling of documents sitting nos 79 6th February 2018/ sitting nos 80 7th February 2018

Are parliamentary committees able to summon ministers for hearings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon ministers. Ministers regularly follow invitations and are obliged to answer questions.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are slightly limited; ministers occasionally refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are considerably limited; ministers frequently refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon ministers.
Summoning Ministers
7
A parliamentary committee may call any minister unless precluded from doing so by a vote within the committee. In 2012, the house speaker ruled that committees have the authority to devise their own rules and approved this method. However, since 2013, ministers have freely appeared before various committees to provide explanations or answer questions.

Citations:
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20150824/local/security-committee-to-discuss-visas-scam.581745
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160919/local/public-accounts-committee-expected-to-examine-state-hospital-contracts.625475
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160118/local/committee-wrapping-up-long-oil-procurement-debate.599271

Are parliamentary committees able to summon experts for committee meetings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon experts.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are considerably limited.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon experts.
Summoning Experts
9
Parliamentary committees may summon experts to make presentations or help committees evaluate policies under discussion or shed light on issues under investigation. While the Parliamentary Accounts Committee has long used this process frequently, it has recently become more widespread, with experts being called more frequently before the Social Affairs Committee, the Economic Policy Committee and to a lesser extent the Environmental Committee. However, problems may arise due to the government’s reluctance to reveal commercial information, as in case of the hospital management contract.

Citations:
Let MPs summon Vitals deal stakeholders. PN tells government, Times of Malta 06/01/1
Standing Orders of the House of Representatives Subsidiary Legislation Constit.02 Article 164
Financial scrutiny of Vitals to remain secret: Request to publish due diligence exercise denied by Data Protection Commissioner, Times of Malta 03/10/18

Are the task areas and structures of parliamentary committees suited to monitor ministries effectively?

10
 9

The match between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are well-suited to the effective monitoring of ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are largely suited to the monitoring ministries.
 5
 4
 3


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are partially suited to the monitoring of ministries.
 2
 1

The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are not at all suited to the monitoring of ministries.
Task Area Congruence
6
There are presently 16 standing committees, several of which are fully congruent with ministerial portfolios. These include health, foreign affairs, environment, economic and financial affairs, and social affairs. The main monitoring committee is the Public Accounts Committee, which is chaired by a member of the opposition. Since 2016, committees have become more involved in monitoring ministries, though they also retain an advisory role. Ad hoc committees are also established from time to time. The Standing Committee on Foreign and EU Affairs, for example, scrutinizes pipeline aquis; because of the scale of this task, three subcommittees were created: one acting as a clearinghouse, and the other two dealing with the various policy areas in line with ministerial portfolios. This standing committee also works very closely with the other standing committees. In 2018, a new Standing Committee for Standards in Public Life was inaugurated to assist the new commissioner in this area. This figure was empowered to look into breaches of ethics committed by members of parliament and those appointed within the public service on a position-of-trust basis. A new Petitions Committee has also been created. Additionally, a number of joint committees facilitate policy development and implementation across ministries.

Citations:
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160118/local/committee-wrapping-up-long-oil-procurement-debate.599271
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20151024/local/zonqor-university-site-selection-to-be-discussed-during-parliament.589443
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20150724/local/committee-to-consider-whether-gay-men-should-donate-blood.577877
http://www.parlament.mt/standing-committees?l=1
The Parliament of Malta web page
Parliament Annual Report 2016

Media

#8

To what extent do media in your country analyze the rationale and impact of public policies?

10
 9

A clear majority of mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing the rationale and impact of public policies.
 8
 7
 6


About one-half of the mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing the rationale and impact of public policies. The rest produces a mix of infotainment and quality information content.
 5
 4
 3


A clear minority of mass media brands focuses on high-quality information content analyzing public policies. Several mass media brands produce superficial infotainment content only.
 2
 1

All mass media brands are dominated by superficial infotainment content.
Media Reporting
5
Maltese media outlets often publish what can be described as “infotainment,” or sensational or superficial content. Two reasons may explain this: First, in the country’s highly polarized and very small society, media outlets tend to follow their owners’ political lead, which here is often political parties or people with political connections to a political party. Second, the competition for readership and audiences is fierce, and revenue constraints restrict the quality of publications’ output. High-quality analysis of government policies, for example, remains rare. That said, people in Malta today see their national media as being more free and independent, and as providing more diversity of viewpoints, than was the case five years ago. Improvements to the Freedom of Information Act in 2012 have also improved media reporting, though numerous restrictions still exist and newspapers are often unable to obtain relevant data. The 2018 Media Pluralism Monitor has increased the (still medium-) level of risk associated with the country’s media environment, but this is a consequence of the murder of a journalist. Malta is one of the few countries in Europe in which there is no media-literacy policy aimed at giving citizens the critical skills needed for active participation in the contemporary exchange of information. Foreigners have been allowed to own a broadcasting media license since 2000.

Citations:
Aquilina, K Information Freedom at last, Times of Malta 22/08/12
https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20180309/local/maltese-journalists-basic-protection-takes-a-dip-report.672768Media
Media Pluralism Monitor 2018
Malta Today 06/03/2019 Editors Sound warning over future of the press

Parties and Interest Associations

#21

How inclusive and open are the major parties in their internal decision-making processes?

10
 9

The party allows all party members and supporters to participate in its decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are open.
 8
 7
 6


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, all party members have the opportunity to participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and issue agendas are rather open.
 5
 4
 3


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, a number of elected delegates participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and issue agendas are largely controlled by the party leadership.
 2
 1

A number of party leaders participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and issue agendas are fully controlled and drafted by the party leadership.
Intra-party Decision-Making
5
Political parties are increasingly coming under pressure to consult beyond party membership. This shift has been driven by voter volatility, with voters less constrained by party loyalties. Recently, the Nationalist Party (PN) decided to open to its members the second phase of voting for the party’s leaders. However, these members are only allowed to vote after party delegates have made an initial choice from among the contenders. The result has been the election of a new leader who does not have the support of a number of the old stalwarts of the party. The Labor Party’s recent selection of a new leader took place through a vote open to all party members. However, changes to the party structure that resulted in the removal of the secretary-general are said to have weakened the separation between the party in power and in parliament and the grassroots; as a consequence, critics say, there is no internal party figure able to call the party in power to account. In determining their agendas, the parties are consulting more widely with civil society today than previously. This explains the Labor Party’s reference to itself as a movement, since it has succeeded in bringing together groups with various identities. This is an approach the Nationalist Party is also attempting to adopt. Party committees collaborate with party leaders to select candidates.

Citations:
Are political parties becoming irrelevant? Malta Today 09/02/16
Replacing political parties. Times of Malta 01/01/18
https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20180906/local/labour-approves-first-group-of-euro-parliament-election-candidates.688524
https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/1496-pn-councillors-can-vote-on-delias-leadership.724348
Loving Malta 06/12/2019 We need a Secretary-General again says Labour veteran Jason Micallef

To what extent are economic interest associations (e.g., employers, industry, labor) capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Employers & Unions)
7
Economic interest associations have structures capable of formulating relevant public policies. The greater resources commanded by economic interest associations enable them to employ highly qualified personnel and consult qualified academics according to the policy issue involved. The larger trade unions have their own research officers and can also draw on the expertise of the Center for Labor Studies (CLS) at the University of Malta which was established to facilitate the trade union sector. Trade unions also use existing studies or academic and specialist support. EU support funds and structures such as internship programs have strengthened non-economic interest associations, allowing them to produce detailed research in their area of expertise. However, most NGOs remain reactive rather than proactive. In its 2019 budget, the government has earmarked some financial support for NGOs to help them overcome some of these problems. A number of economic associations have worked proactively in various policy areas such as rent reform, transport reform and constitutional reform.

Citations:
The Maltese Business Observer 25/07/2019 Uncertainty over whether rent reform will bring stability
Times of Malta 03/02/2019 Why an underground metro system would be better than a vehicle tunnel to Gozo

To what extent are non-economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Others)
6
Malta has a large number of non-economic interest associations. Though typically short on resources, they access external support through international membership or regional federations, which helps them, on occasion, to formulate extremely well-informed policy papers. EU funds and other structures (e.g., the internship programs) have also helped them improve their policy capacities. Few organizations employ full-time staff, but many have academics as part of their leadership structure, thereby utilizing their expertise. In some cases, organizations are able to attract research support on a voluntary basis from like-minded academics and other volunteers. Nonetheless, many of them still need to become proactive, rather than reactive to events or government proposals. Having said that, some organizations provide the government with frequent expert support, at times providing resources, support and direction in policy areas in which the government has little internal expertise. This has been the case for migration, asylum, integration and environmental policies, for example. In recent years the number of domestic NGOs has increased rapidly, but most are of an activist bent rather than research-oriented. Extinction Rebellion is one of the most prominent recent additions to the country’s landscape.

Independent Supervisory Bodies

#20

Does there exist an independent and effective audit office?

10
 9

There exists an effective and independent audit office.
 8
 7
 6


There exists an effective and independent audit office, but its role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


There exists an independent audit office, but its role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

There does not exist an independent and effective audit office.
Audit Office
9
The National Audit Office is an independent institution reporting exclusively to parliament, and is charged with scrutinizing the fiscal performance of public administration. Both the auditor general and his or her deputy are appointed by a resolution of the House of Representatives, requires a majority vote of no less than two-thirds of the body’s members. The auditor general enjoys constitutional protection and works closely with the Public Accounts Committee. The NAO can open investigations without a prior request by parliament or the prime minister. The office audits all central government ministries, local governments and EU-funded projects, and publishes special reports on key and often sensitive policy areas. A 2019 report on constitutional reform by the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life recommended that the auditor general, as a designated officer of parliament, should not be additionally designated as a public officer, in order to emphasize his/her independence from the government.

Citations:
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160202/local/nao-stands-by-its-findings-in-gaffarena-scandal.600970
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160627/local/spend-more-on-primary-health-care-nao-urges-government.616991
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20151110/local/NAO-finds-25-permits-issued-just-before-poll.591562
Report by the Auditor General on the public accounts 2016
Annual Report on the working of local government 2016
Performance audit: outpatient waiting at Mater Dei hospital
Ombudsman annual report 2016
https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20171215/opinion/Eventful-year-for-NAO-Charles-Deguara.665670
https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20171114/local/most-nao-recommendations-addressed.663116
https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20181008/local/audit-office-adopts-new-strategy-to-improve-governance.691098
https://www.independent.com.mt/articles/2018-11-28/local-news/Electrogas-NAO-flags-shortcomings-in-due-diligence-says-Gasol-departure-not-in-line-with-contracts-6736200040
https://nao.gov.mt/en/press-releases/4/1230/presentation-of-the-cooperative-audit-report
Commissioner for standards in public life; Toward Higher Standards in public life October 2019

Does there exist an independent and effective ombuds office?

10
 9

There exists an effective and independent ombuds office.
 8
 7
 6


There exists an effective and independent ombuds office, but its advocacy role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


There exists an independent ombuds office, but its advocacy role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

There does not exist an effective and independent ombuds office.
Ombuds Office
7
The ombudsman is elected by a two-thirds majority of the House of Representatives, and is held in high esteem by the public. A recent Venice Commission report stated that the institution was independent, autonomous and credible. The appointment of three commissioners (on the environment and planning, health and education) to investigate complaints as well as the office’s wide-ranging powers to initiate inquiries considerably increased its standing as a watchdog for good governance. A secondary function of the ombudsman is to act as a catalyst for improving public administration. The ombudsman has stated that in pursuing these initiatives he has generally found collaboration from ministries, government departments and public authorities and that there have even been cases where public authorities have sought his advice. The Ombudsman Office, however, is not empowered to deal with human-rights complaints and its recommendations are not binding. A recent clarification confirmed that the office has jurisdiction over complaints emanating from the armed forces of Malta. In his 2017 report, the ombudsman drew attention to the lack of jurisdiction his office has over privatized entities, particularly in the health and energy sectors, and the need for a remedy. He also drew attention to the problem of obtaining information from government on sensitive issues. In a recent report presented to parliament, the ombudsman reiterated the same issues, while complaining of the lack of respect accorded to office by the public administration. In his 2018 case notes presented to parliament, he also complained that parliament was failing to act on investigative reports handed over for remedial action. The ombudsman has further recommended that the office be granted a constitutional mandate and be accorded the same protection as that of the auditor general; that parliament be obliged to debate its reports; that a deputy ombudsman be appointed to strengthen the office; and that the remit of the office be extended, allowing it to investigate the public administration’s administrative actions, inactions, decisions and processes.

Citations:
Aquilina, K. Strengthening the Ombudsman’s office. Times of Malta 14/08/12
On the Strengthening of the Ombudsman Institution: A Proposal by the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman January 2014 Ombudsman.org.mt
The Parliamentary Ombudsman The Independent 27/11/2016
Ombudsman against making hos own recommendations enforceable by law The Independent 04/01/2016
Parliamentary Ombudsman Annual Report 2016
Parliamentary Ombudsman Annual Report 2018
Ombudsman Case notes 2018 Edition 38
Ombudsman Plan 2020

Is there an independent authority in place that effectively holds government offices accountable for handling issues of data protection and privacy?

10
 9

An independent and effective data protection authority exists.
 8
 7
 6


An independent and effective data protection authority exists, but its role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


A data protection authority exists, but both its independence and effectiveness are strongly limited.
 2
 1

There is no effective and independent data protection office.
Data Protection Authority
8
Malta has an information and data-protection commissioner who is appointed by the prime minister in consultation with the leader of the opposition and who heads the country’s data-protection authority, the IDPC, which is both effective and independent. As of March 2020, the IDPC is comprised of a total of 12 officers, including a commissioner, a deputy commissioner, a head compliance officer, the head of the legal unit, two legal counsels, one legal officer, an executive officer, a senior technical officer, a case officer, an administration and accounts officer, and two general-duty officers. The IDPC is currently recruiting a project administrator to manage an EU project on digital-protection awareness issues. The project will be funded by the European Commission. The IDPC is not subject to the Public Administration Act.
The IDPC website provides information about the protection the office provides in various fields. It also provides assistance to citizens who believe their privacy has been invaded. Malta also abides by EU legislation and decisions by the Advocate General of the European Court in this area, and in May 2018 transposed the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) into law. Since the law has taken effect, 100 breaches of the data-protection act have been reported, with 17 of these leading to a fine. Maltese courts can also be called upon to adjudicate complaints relating to data privacy infringements. A recent ruling by the Information and Data Protection Appeals Tribunal clarified that the data-protection commissioner has the right to issue enforcement orders when a government ministry fails to issue certain information – in the case under review, information relating to government consultants’ contracts. In 2018, the office investigated 76 data-subject complaints, the largest share of which had to do with the unauthorized disclosure of personal information. The office also received 113 personal-data breach notifications that year. The office can issue fines, reprimands and warnings. As part of its regulatory function, the office is also responsible for the enforcement of the freedom of information legislation. In 2018, 22 complaints were received in this area, primarily from journalists.

Citations:
https://idpc.org.mt/en/Pages/Home.aspx
Data Commissioner has right to access contracts of government consultants – appeals tribunal
Economy Minister loses legal challenge. Times of Malta 29/01/19
DLA Piper GDPR data breach survey: February 2019
https://www.dlapiper.com/en/uk/insights/publications/2019/01/gdpr-data-breach-survey/
Information and Data Commissioner. Annual Report 2018
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