The Malta Independent 19 December 2018, Wednesday

Watch: PM defends government’s employment of roughly 700 persons on trust-basis

Julian Bonnici Thursday, 8 March 2018, 14:53 Last update: about 11 months ago

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat today defended his government’s decision to employ around 700 people as persons of trust, consultants, employed in positions of trust, or as politically appointed individuals 

The figure, which was revealed through a number of Freedom of Information requests in the last edition of The Malta Independent Sunday is 683, with the Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government, and the Office of the Prime Minister, employing the most with 107 and 105 persons in such positions respectively.  The replies did not include members of government boards as appointments are made publicly available.

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It is true that a number of posts are expected to be filled by persons of trust, such as Chiefs of Staff and communications coordinators, but others raise serious questions after the system has been used to employ everyone from customer care officers to a security guard at the Addolorata Cemetery, dog handlers, cleaners, and maintenance officers.

He was specifically asked how these appointments could be justified to which he replied that he has “looked at the statistics and we are employing fewer people than previous administrations.”

“Remember, a position and person of trust stops the minute the minister walks out of the door. So this is not a question of a person being employed by and working with the government.”

He was pressed further as to how the employment of a security guard at Addolorata Cemetery and customer care operator constituted a person or position of trust.  

“With customer care, you need to have faith in the person,” Muscat explained, “but he or she is not an employee for life, it could go on for 3 years, 5 years, 8 years, till the Minister leaves.”

The PM was also reminded of Ombudsman Anthony Mifsud’s concerns over this form of “irregular” employment.

In the Ombudsplan 18, he raised concerns about the employment of persons of trust and positions of trust. With regards to the former is highlighted the “unacceptable secrecy” of employment, pointing towards the constitution which stipulates that recruitment is a competitive, open, and transparent process.

“The fact that subsequent administrations have used this system to employ persons of trust, and with no way to remedy the situation, it is of the advice of the Office of the Ombudsman, that this situation is irregular,” the report read.

Initially, the PM said that he did not agree this constituted irregular employment, and when asked specifically if he disagrees with the Ombudsman’s statement, he said:

“I don’t want to speak about this directly because I do not know what the quote specifically says and I am not going to get into a controversy with the Ombudsman.”

PM refrains to comment directly on Marlene Mizzi’s statement

The PM was asked by The Times of Malta to comment on the recent comments on social media made by MEP Marlene Mizzi with regards to the two law students with minor criminal record who were granted their warrant, were she said that “the Chief Justice knew of the case of the two lawyers before he assigned them to the judges. Why did he not act?” the Labour MEP asked.

He refused to comment, insisting that she had a right to exercise her freedom of expression and that the Chief Justice had acted correctly.

Amendments to MPs pensions corrects anomaly - PM

Malta Today asked Muscat for a comment on the recent decision from MPs to be provided with a full two-thirds pension if even they served just one term rather than the two terms that were stipulated in the law. 

Should an MP not serve a full-term, the figure will be applied on a pro-rata basis.

He insisted that this was done to correct an anomaly and the injustices that had affected MPs who had performed well in their service.

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