The Malta Independent 27 June 2019, Thursday

Lands Authority recently lost its full-time lawyers; PN MP also highlights promotion issues

Kevin Schembri Orland Saturday, 5 August 2017, 09:32 Last update: about 3 years ago

The Lands Authority recently lost all of its full-time lawyers, this newsroom is informed.

PN MP Jason Azzopardi had written on Facebook that all the Authority's lawyers had resigned within a matter of days, but the Authority's CEO insists that this was not the case.

Lands Authority CEO Carlo Mifsud was asked why all the lawyers at the Authority resigned, to which he provided an account of the dates when the lawyers left, and the reasons for their departures.

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"On the 2 May 2017, Dr Matthew Cassar resigned his post of Legal Officer since he was offered an alternative position as a lawyer in the private sector. On the 8 June 2017 Dr Francesca Zarb asked for the revocation of her detailing to seek a new career within another Government Department but subsequently withdrew her request and resigned to seek employment in the private industry. On the 6 July 2017 Dr Josianne Azzopardi submitted an application for a career break from the civil service and this was subsequently approved by the Permanent Secretary.

"Despite speculation which might arise, except in the case of Dr Azzopardi, who asked for a career break as per Public Service Management Code, the other requests were made prior to the assimilation process at the Lands Authority." This means that the resignations of the lawyers did not have anything to do with the recent controversy regarding promotions within the Lsnds Authority.

"It is good to point out that there have not been any other requests for detailing revocation, career breaks or resignations since the department became an Authority or since the assimilation process started."

Mifsud explained that the Authority intends to keep using the services of Stefano Filletti, "...who for the last six years has been handling the court cases of the Lands Department. It also plans to engage full time employees as lawyers, notaries and legal procurators, which was already planned before the assimilation happened, since the Authority (formerly the Government Property Division) was heavily under resourced and not equipped to handle all the cases it has."

Sources within the Authority have informed this newsroom that there are internal issues, and that some employees are angry about the way certain promotions were given, and that some employees received higher wage rises than others.

Recently, the Lands Department was turned into the Lands Authority. The aim was to grant the Authority more autonomy. The Department, back in 2015, was scarred by the Gaffarena property deal scandal, which eventually led to the resignation of Michael Falzon as Parliamentary Secretary for Lands.

Seperately, PN MP Ryan Callus who sits on the Authority's Board was contacted by this newsroom. Callus  pointed out that he had submitted a number of Parliamentary Questions regarding the assimilation process from the Lands Department into the Lands Authority, regarding alleged preferential treatment in two particular promotions. Callus, however, is still awaiting replies after having been told that the information was still being gathered. 

He said he had been approached by a number of workers who were disappointed as a result of these promotions and there were others who had resigned over the matter.

Callus again brought up the issue during a Lands Authority Board meeting yesterday, but says he was not given satisfactory answers. He is asking for the promotions to be reversed due to the situation demoralising other workers and the negative effects the situation is having on operations.


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