Ħatriet politiċi fis-settur pubbliku (Positions of trust)

Ombudsplan 2015

Fl-Ombudsplan għall-2015 l-Ombudsman jirrimarka li l-ħatriet diretti fis-settur pubbliku [dawk li nirreferu għalihom bħala ħatriet politiċi] jistgħu jwasslu għal-nuqqas ta’ trasparenza.

Kull persuna impjegata fis-servizz pubbliku għandha tkun persuna ta’ fiduċja. L-Ombudsman fil-fatt jgħid li s-servizz pubbliku għandu jkun apolitiku u dan għax għandu jkun lejali lejn kull amminjistrazzjoni. Is-servizz pubbliku għandu jkun il-ħolqa bejn l-amministrazzjonijiet differenti u l-istrument li permezz tiegħu l-politika tal-Gvern tal-ġurnata tkun imwettqa, mhux biss b’lejalta’ lejn il-vot popolari imma fuq kollox b’ġustizzja u ekwita. Għax l-amministrazzjoni pubblika, ġdida jew qadima, hi hemm għal kulħadd. Mhiex hemm biss għal dawk li ivvutaw għaliha.

Minn mudell ta’ servizz pubbliku fuq stil Anglu-Sassonu fejn għandek servizz pubbliku permanenti mexjin lejn mudell Amerikan fejn numru kbir ta’ persuni jinbidlu mal-bidla fil-Gvern. Meta dan ma jsirx b’regoli ċari u trasparenti joħloq inġustizzji u nuqqas ta’ trasparenza.

Il-każ tal-bdil tas-Segretarji Permanenti kważi kollha mal-bidla fil-Gvern hu wieħed mill-eżempji li lkoll nafu bih. Ma ġratx biss taħt l-amministrazzjoni ta’ Joseph Muscat. Anke fi żmien Lawrence Gonzi kellna każijiet fejn il-Gvern ried jaħtar persuni li ried hu f’posizzjonijiet li qieshom bħala li huma ta’ fiduċja. Niftakru l-ħatra ta’ Direttur għall-Ħarsien tal-Ambjent u ta’ Chief Executive tal-MEPA li qabel l-2013 kienu nħatru direttament mill-MEPA bl-approvazzjoni tal-Ministru għall-Ambjent u dan mingħajr sejħa għal applikazzjonijiet.  Il-Gvern ta’ dakinnhar ma kienx qabel  mar-rapporti tal-Perit Joe Falzon (Uffiċjal tal-Verifika tal-MEPA) li kien qal b’mod ċar li dawn it-tip ta’ ħatriet ma kienux korretti.

L-Ombudsman jemfasizza li l-ħatriet f’ position of trust (ħatriet politiċi) għandhom ikunu minimi. Wieħed jifhem li kemm is-Segretarjati Privati fil-Ministeri kif ukoll uħud mill-persuni meħtieġa biex ifasslu policies għandhom ikunu persuni ta’ fiduċja. In-numru tagħhom iżda għandu jkun ċar, limitat u regolat b’mod li kulħadd ikun jaf fejn hu.

Ma dan jiena nżid nirreferi għall-ħatriet ta’ Bordijiet u Awtoritajiet. Dawn il-ħatriet għadhom jibdew isiru wara skrutinju pubbliku [public hearing] minn Kumitat Parlamentari. Dan hu punt li temfasizza Alternattva Demorkatika fil-Manifest Elettorali għall-elezzjoni ġenerali tal-2013. Huwa neċessarju li jkun assigurat li jkun hemm iżjed persuni kompetenti li jinħatru fil-Bordijiet u l-Awtoritajiet. Skrutinju pubbliku tal-persuni nominati jista’ jkun mod kif dan ikun assigurat.

 

Il-ħatriet politiċi fl-amministrazzjoni pubblika ma jistgħux ikunu eliminati. Imma nistgħu bħala pajjiż nassiguraw li l-mertu jkollu rwol ferm iktar importanti milli għandu sal-lum fil-ħatriet pubbliċi.

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Tad-daħq ……. jew tal-biki?

George Pullicino 13

Qiegħed nisma’ lill-Onorevoli George Pullicino jitkellem fil-Parlament bħalissa (It-Tlieta 25 ta’ Frar 2014 ftit wara is-7 pm).

Qiegħed jistaqsi sensiela ta’ mistoqsijijiet lil Konrad Mizzi Ministru tal-Enerġija u l-Konservazzjoni tal-Ilma wara li dan għamel stqarrija Parlamentari dwar madwar 650 file dwar serq ta’ elettriku qabel Marzu 2013 li instabu msakkrin f’kamra bla ma ttieħdet azzjoni dwarhom.

Qiegħed jinsisti li kulħadd għandu jerfa’ r-responsabbiltajiet tiegħu fl-Enemalta u dan fil-kuntest ta’ diversi każijiet ta’ serq tal-elettriku.

Sewwa qiegħed jgħid l-Onorevoli Pullicino.

Imma meta niftakar kif kienet taħdem il-MEPA fiż-żmien li jiena kont fl-Uffiċċju tal-Uffiċjal tal-Verifika (Audit Officer) nitbissem. Anzi kważi ninfaqa’ nidħaq.

Ma niftakarx li qatt smajt lill-Onorevoli Pullicino jitkellem b’dan il-mod dwar il-MEPA meta kien il-Ministru responsabbli għall-MEPA. Kieku, forsi l-affarijiet kienu jkunu ħafna aħjar fil-MEPA.

Il-MEPA u l-froġa tal-Mistra Village

froga

Il-Kummissarju tal-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar David Pace f’rapport li ġie ippubblikat il-bierah it-Tnejn 2 ta’ Diċembru 2013 fi ftit kliem jgħid li l-permessi għall-iżvilupp mill-ġdid tal-Mistra Village huma froġa oħra tal-MEPA. Dan jagħmlu wara li mexxa investigazzjoni fuq talba ta’ Din l-Art Ħelwa.

Il-frejjeġ fil-MEPA li kienu jsiru taħt Lawrence Gonzi, George Pullicino u Mario Demarco għadhom qed isiru taħt Joseph Muscat u Michael Farrugia.

Hu ġustifikat, jgħidilna l-Kummissarju tal-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar, li l-permessi għall-iżvilupp tal-Mistra Village jkunu irtirati.

Ir-rapport li tistgħu taqrawh fuq is-sit elettroniku ta’ Din l-Art Ħelwa jagħti raġunijiet dettaljati biex jispjega għaliex il-Kummissarju David Pace wasal għal din il-konklużjoni. Ir-rapport jispjega xi tħalla barra fil-konsiderazzjonijiet li għamel id-Direttorat tal-Ippjanar u jgħid li l-Bord tal-MEPA kien iggwidat ħażin mill-Major Projects Unit tal-istess MEPA. Il-Bord tal-MEPA ngħata informazzjoni nieqsa u informazzjoni żbaljata.

F’pajjiż ċivilizzat il-Bord tal-MEPA kien jirreżenja en bloc wara deċiżjoni bħal din.

Darba waħda hekk kien sar meta l-Perit Joseph Falzon kien ħareġ rapport dwar il-permess abbużiv tal-LIDL ta’ Ħal-Safi fuq talba għal investigazzjoni li dakinnhar kienet saret minn Alternattiva Demokratika . Dakinnhar 6 minn 7 membri tal-Kummissjoni għall-Kontroll ta’ l-Iżvilupp li approvat il-permess kienu irriżenjaw lejlet l-elezzjoni ġenerali tal-2008.

Ma nafx kemm il-wieħed jew waħda mill-membri tal-Bord tal-MEPA għandhom il-kuraġġ li jammettu li għamlu żball u li għandhom iħallsu tiegħu billi jirreżenjaw.

Nistennew u naraw.

A position of trust

auberge_de_castille_fullsize

Government has just announced that it has appointed 14 Permanent Secretaries. Three of the appointees have already served under the previous administration. The others are new to the post.

Within twenty four hours from Labour’s election to office, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced the appointment of a designate Head of the Civil Service. In line with Lawrence Gonzi’s appointments the said designate Head of the Civil Service was also appointed simultaneously as Principle Permanent Secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister and Secretary to the Cabinet.

Within hours rumours announced that all Permanent Secretaries had been requested to submit their resignations which, it was stated, were necessary and in line with normal practice in a democratic society.

It  was not however stated that the real issue with the post of Permanent Secretary is that it is a position of trust. All those appointed were so appointed because the previous administration considered that they could be trusted. Knowing some if not most of the appointees I can say that the trust demonstrated by the previous administration in the appointment of its Permanent Secretaries was most probably based on a cocktail of considerations.  Their administrative abilities undoubtedly featured prominently on the list. There were undoubtedly other issues. Given the sensitivity of the posts I have no doubt that political loyalty was given some weight in the appointments made. In some cases more than others.

The posts of Permanent Secretaries are not the only posts which the Gonzi administration considered as positions of trust.  I remember clearly the reports drawn up by former MEPA Audit Officer on the appointment of the Director for Environment Protection at MEPA and MEPA’s  CEO without issuing a call for applications. The MEPA Audit Officer had then argued that there was no need to consider such posts as positions of trust meriting direct appointment. Subjecting them to a public competition through an open call for applications would have been fair and proper.

A number of public corporations and authorities have appointed their senior management, primarily CEOs, through either an open call or else through a direct appointment. In view of the fact that the Public Administration Act has not been brought into force there is no enforceable rule to ensure a clear demarcation line as to which posts in the wider civil service are to be deemed as positions of trust and which not.

It is logical for persons appointed to positions of trust to make way when those who appointed them are no longer in authority. But then in a micro-state as Malta, where each and every one of us is known to one and all, it is in my view essential that the positions in the wider civil service which are deemed to be “positions of trust” are to be the minimum possible number.  It does not make sense to have a large number of such posts.

Unfortunately this matter has never been discussed. What is government’s position on the matter?

It is about time that all the cards are on the table.

L-ittra anonima tal-PN

PN ittra anonima p.1.122012

Jiena ukoll irċevejt l-ittra anonima tal-PN li paġna minnha qed nirriproduċi hawn fuq.

Żammejtha għax mill-envelope u l-label għaraft mill-ewwel minn fejn ġiet. Fl-ebda ħin ma kelli dubju u irriżulta li kelli raġun dwar dan.

Il-PN beda l-kampanja tat-twerwir bit-transfers.

Jiena ma kellix bżonn min ifakkarni għax kemm il-PN fil-Gvern kif ukoll il-Labour fil-Gvern it-tnejn imxew ħażin miegħi meta kont impjegat fis-settur pubbliku.

Fiż-żmien li Lawrence Gonzi u l-PN ilhom fil-Gvern mhux transfer ħadt iżda kelli l-kuntratt tax-xogħol fl-uffiċċju tal-Uffiċjal tal-Verifika tal-MEPA (Audit Officer) mhux imġedded u dan f’April 2007!

L-istorja tiegħi mal-Labour seħħet fl-1984 meta tkeċċejt mix-xogħol mal-Gvern għax kont nikteb fil-gazzetti tal-PN.

Għadni ma fhimtx għalfejn bgħatuli l-ittra anonima. Imma jidher li l-PN għandhom ħafna flus x’jaħlu.

M’għandhomx għalfejn ifakkruni. Għax jiena niftakar sewwa x’għaddejt minnu! Imma jidher li huma (il-PN) donnhom insew, u jippretendu li l-uniku passat li jeżisti hu ta’ ħaddiehor. Għax tagħhom iridu jinsewh qiesu qatt ma kien xejn. Mhux hekk tgħid.

My watch at the Audit Office

My watch at the Audit Office of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority came to an abrupt end some five years ago in circumstances which were then described as being a direct threat from Mepa to the independence of its Audit Officer.

The resulting public controversy saw the Ombudsman’s intervention in the summer of 2007 with his well-articulated solution to develop his office as the base for functions such as those of the Mepa Audit Office. As a result of their being based at the Ombudsman’s Office, these functions would be guaranteed the protection of that office: the best way of ensuring the office holder’s independence.

It was a bold step which unfortunately took five years to implement. It is only now that the first steps leading to the migration of the Mepa Audit Office functions to the Ombudsman’s Office have been initiated.

At this point it is pertinent to highlight some of the achievements of the Mepa Audit Office, which notwithstanding its independence being constantly threatened in its first four years of existence, still managed to deliver.

I state that the Audit Office’s independence was threatened during the first four years of its existence purposely, as when Minister George Pullicino and his sidekick, then Mepa chairman Andrew Calleja, relinquished their hold on Mepa in 2008, in this respect matters slowly drifted back to normality.

The Mepa Audit Office faced an uphill battle. During the period 2004-8, Mepa opposed the basic rules of decent governance. It continuously objected to informing complainants of the conclusions of investigations, which conclusions were based on facts unearthed generally from the authority’s files but at times also as a result of interviewing Mepa staff.

The Audit Officer considered that communicating the conclusions of investigations to complainants was essential in order that they would be in a position to understand the reasons justifying or otherwise the complaints submitted.

On my watch the Mepa Audit Office carried out a large number of investigations. Some concerned hot topics of the day and made it to the front pages of various newspapers and at times headline news on local TV stations.

I single out one very important investigation which illustrates the manner of operation of Mepa.

The investigation took a cue from a report in The Times entitled Tensioned Structure Raises Winemaker’s Ire, published on January 27, 2006. This investigation was in effect an inquiry focusing on the chairman, Mr Calleja, and his method of operation.

It resulted that on a specific site a number of notifications in terms of the Development Notification Order were refused for reasons which were detailed in the respective files. Subsequently other notifications were submitted on the same site, these being approved!

The investigation revealed that the case officer had been given specific instructions on how to deal with the notifications under consideration after the prospective developer had a meeting with the Mepa chairman accompanied by other Mepa officials (report 2006-031 dated March 13, 2006). Mr Calleja lost his cool and considered the report of the Audit Office as an “unwarranted intrusion in administrative measures adopted by Mepa”.

In addition, 25 days after the report was issued, on April 7, 2006, the Environment Minister had a meeting with the Audit Officer. During this meeting the minister informed the Audit Officer that he had instructed Mepa that my contract of employment, which was to expire later in the month, was not to be renewed.

In a letter dated April 11, 2006, the Audit Officer explained to the minister in writing how his action was a direct threat to the independence of the Audit Office:

“Your action would seriously undermine the independence of the Audit Office… Unfortunately since its inception the Audit Office has met with, at best, lukewarm support from the chairman and in certain cases outright hostility. If the post of audit officer was to depend on the goodwill of the chairman or the minister, than its role would be superfluous and its work can effectively be carried out by the personal staff of the minister.”

The audit officer concluded his letter by tendering his resignation.

The minister’s instructions were later withdrawn, as late in April 2006 my contract of employment was renewed for one year.

Twelve months later more drastic action was taken.

In 2007 the renewal of the Audit Officer’s appointment, which required approval by Parliament’s Select Committee, was delayed until such time that my contract had expired.

As no audit officer was then in office no request could be submitted for my contract’s renewal. He could only request my reinstatement when his appointment was renewed.But this was ignored.

This is the sequence of events which led to the migration of the Audit Office function from Mepa to the Ombudsman’s Office.

It was essential to ensure the independence of the office-holder at all times.

Published in The Times of Malta Saturday August 18, 2012 

Il-Mercaptan: MEPA u Enemalta kompliċi ?

Il-bieraħ f’Konferenza Stampa organizzata minn Alternattiva Demokratika ippubblikajna rapport dwar investigazzjoni li saret mill-Uffiċjal tal-Verifika tal-MEPA (l-Audit Officer Joe Falzon).  Din l-investgazzjoni saret wara li jiena għan-nom ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika tlabt biex il-Perit Falzon jivestiga eżattament x’ġara, u in partikolari jekk il-MEPA għalqitx għajnejha għal dak li kienet qed tagħmel il-MEPA.

 

Mill-mod kif żviluppaw l-affarijiet AD hi tal-fehma illi kien hemm kompliċita bejn il-MEPA u l-Enemalta li serviet biex ippruvat taħbi dak li ġara. Fir-rapport tiegħu il-Perit Falzon ikkonkluda li l-MEPA naqset mill-obbligi statutorji tagħha u dan meta ma ħaditx azzjoni kontra l-Enemalta.

Tislima lil Joe Falzon

Illum ħarġet l-aħbar li l-Perit Joe Falzon ser jispiċċa mill-kariga ta’ Uffiċjal tal-Verifika tal-MEPA wara l–aħħar tax-xahar li qegħdin fih.

L-istorja hi waħda twila. Imma fil-qosor bdiet madwar 5 snin ilu fis-sajf tal-2007. Dakinnhar Joe Falzon kien għadu kif inħatar għat-tieni darba bħala Uffiċjal tal-Verifika. Meta reġa’ daħal fl-uffiċċju kien sab li l-assistent tiegħu, li kont jien, meta spiċċalu l-kuntratt ma kienux ġeddewhulu. Kienet qamet polemika fejn jiena kont akkużat li kelli konflitt ta’ interess.

Ara per eżempju dan l-artiklu tas-17 ta’ Ġunju 2007 u dan l-artiklu l-ieħor tal-24 ta’ Ġunju 2007 liema artikli ġew ippubblikati t-tnejn fit-Times.

Bħala konklużjoni tal-argumenti li kienu nqalgħu dwar id-dritt li kellu l-Perit Falzon li jaħtar l-assistenti tiegħu, u per konsegwenza jassigura l-indipendenza tal-operat tiegħu l-Ombudsman kien ippropona li l-funzjoni tal-Uffiċċju tal-Verifka kellha tgħaddi fl-uffiċċju tiegħu.

Meta eventwalment saret l-emenda fil-liġi din kienet tipprovdi illi l-ħatra l-ġdida (Kummissarju dwar l-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar jidhirli) kellha issir bi qbil bejn il-Prim Ministru u l-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni. Imma f’kaz li ma jkunx hemm qbil il-ħatra kellu jagħmilha l-Ombudsman.

Minn dak li hu magħruf s’issa jidher li l-Prim Ministru u l-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni ma qablux fuq min kellu jinħatar u l-Ombudsman għadda biex ħatar persuna huwa li ser jibda fil-ħatra fl-1 t’Awissu 2012.

Li sar ħażin kien li meta beda l-proċess li jdaħħlu fis-seħħ il-liġi l-ġdida lil Perit Falzon ma qalulu xejn. Ħallewh fil-għama u infurmawh fl-aħħar minuta!

Mal-Perit Falzon jiena ħdimt fil-qrib għal tlett snin sħaħ. Dejjem ħdimna bil-galbu u bir-reqqa u b’attenzjoni. Sfortunatament mhux talli mhux dejjem sibna l-kooperazzjoni talli ħafna drabi ħlief gambetti ma sibniex.

L-iskandlu tal-Mistra min kixfu?

Matul dawn l-aħħar jiem intqal ħafna dwar min seta kien jew ma kienx dak li saffar is-suffara (il-whistleblower) dwar l-iskandlu tal-Mistra.

Issa qed jintqal li kien uffiċjal tal-PN li wassal il-kuntratt tal-Mistra lill-Alfred Sant.

Issa jiena ngħid il-verita’ thawwadt ftit għax Alfred Sant dan l-aħħar kien ċar ħafna dwar kif wasal għandu l-kuntratt.  Sant kien ikkwotat li qal hekk :

“Kieku ma kienx għal whistleblower kuraġġuż fis-sistema pubblika li tqażżes jara l-mod kif il-korruzzjoni u l-abbuż tal-poter kienu qed jintużaw lejliet l-elezzjoni bi sfreġju kbir għall-ambjent Malti, kieku l-istorja ma kinitx tasal għandi.”

Kieku jieqaf it-taħwid fit-tixrid tal-informazzjoni jkun ta’ ġid għal kulhadd!

L-aħħar punt. L-iskandlu ma nħoloqx bil-kuntratt. Il-kuntratt u l-qliegħ li kien ser ikun ġġenerat hu biss l-effett. L-abbuż sar fil-MEPA fil-mod kif ġie ipproċessat il-permess. Kif saru laqgħat bil-magħluq. Bi pressjoni u SMSs galore sakemm rakkomandazzjoni għar-rifjut ta’ permess ġiet mibdul biex il-permess inħareg. Ħalliha li wara l-elezzjoni a bażi ta’ rapport tal-Audit Officer tal-istess MEPA dan il-permess ġie irtirat.

Tajjeb li nżommu perspettiva realistika tal-affarijiet.

Enough space exists for schools

 

The refusal by the Malta Environment and Planning Auth­ority’s board last week of the proposed extension to St Augustine’s school at Pietà is a decision that makes sense.

The Mepa board was correct in refusing the application on planning grounds even though there are valid educational reasons that justify the need for more space in the school. The proposal is not compatible with the residential area in which the school and the proposed extension are located. Considering an alternative site would be appropriate.

The application considered by Mepa was to add a primary school to the secondary school already existing on site. The extension was to have six floors, four of which above road level. The proposed development was to be constructed in what is now a garden area that serves as the neighbourhood’s lungs.

As stated by the Planning Directorate, the proposal for the extension, if approved, would have been a case of overdevelopment of the site.

The Church school authorities need to delve deeper in order to plan the educational services they provide after taking into consideration all the impacts of their proposals. Ignoring the impacts on the residents is not an option.

A school, irrespective of its catchment area, should be an integral part of the community where it is located. Ideally, it should be possible for its facilities to be utilised by the community after school hours. It, hence, follows that the manner in which schools are constructed and their relation to the community should be such that a mutually beneficial relationship between the school and the other local institutions can be nurtured.

It seems that this aspect has not been given much thought at St Augustine’s. The school seems to be detached from the community where it is sited. As a consequence, the development can also be viewed as a reduction in the quality of life of the community.

The Church school authorities cannot view St Augustine’s school on its own as an isolated case.

The expansion of the Minor Seminary at Tal-Virtù, for example, was carried out in contravention of the provisions of the Local Plan as detailed by the Mepa audit officer after carrying out a thorough investigation.

The Mepa audit officer had then pointed out that no analysis of traffic impacts had been carried out. He also noted that, with a rapidly declining birth rate, the construction of new schools, except as a replacement for existing inadequate buildings, can hardly be justified anywhere.

The issues to consider are various.

The impacts on third parties need to be given their due weight. Residents close to existing schools like St Augustine’s are already impacted by excessive traffic, even if this is for a limited time in the morning and early afternoon. This impact would increase 100 per cent if the proposed extension were approved, making matters considerably worse.

In addition, the use of facilities after hours when schools are insensitively located in residential areas will impact negatively the community in the area.

Increasing the height of existing buildings or constructing buildings higher than the existing residential surroundings will lead to shadowing of the low-lying residential property. Consequently, as a result of reducing the incidence of direct sunlight on existing residential property, one would be precluded from using equipment utilising solar energy to heat water or to generate electricity. This would signify increased electricity bills for the residents.

The proposed extension for St Augustine’s school at Pietà ignored all these issues.

If the Church schools, as a result of an increased demand, desire to expand it is pretty obvious that the resulting influx of students in these schools would signify a corresponding reduction in the population of state schools. Coupled with the reduction in birth rates, this would mean that there will be substantial empty space in some of the existing state primary schools in years to come.

This could indicate that, rather than developing extensions incompatible with existing residential areas or, worse, developing virgin land, a possible solution to the expansion requirements of schools such as St Augustine in Pietà would be to enter into an agreement with the state to ensure better utilisation of the buildings used as state primary/secondary schools where this is possible. If we agree that more than enough land has been developed in Malta, the redevelopment of some of these sites could be an option worth considering as an alternative to the development of virgin sites and/or the overdevelopment of other sites.

There are valid educational reasons which justify the increase in space that schools such as St Augustine’s are requesting. However, the right of Church schools to provide an education, separate and distinct from that provided by the state, does not, in any way, mean that the rights of residents should be ignored.

Fortunately, it is possible to look elsewhere. Better utilisation of sites already committed to educational use could solve the issue reasonably for all concerned: the schools, the students and the residents.

Published in The Times, February 11,  2012