Malta’s Ombudsman has laid down some serious questions over the government’s “out of hand” appointment of persons in positions of trust, maintaining his belief that the state is breaching the constitution.
“The issue unless otherwise resolved can only be finally determined by the Constitutional Court,” Ombudsman Anthony Mifsud said in his annual report.
The government’s insistence on appointing people to positions of trust on a whim has been a controversial issue for the current administration, with figures showing that as of 2018 there were at least 683 people in such positions.
“The Ombudsman has time and time again highlighted this issue, noting that there is consensus that it is required to have a small number of persons employed in positions of trust,” Mifsud explained.
“It seems however that the practice has gone out of hand and he has recommended that the issue should be debated, crystallised and appropriate legislative and constitutional amendments introduced,” he continued.
Mifsud’s concerns, it seems, will be once again ignored by the central government. He has regularly highlighted the issue, even noting in 2018’s Ombudsplan the “unacceptable secrecy” of employment in the face of a recruitment process that is meant to be competitive, open, and transparent.
According to 2018’s figures, the Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government, and the Office of the Prime Minister employs the most with 107 and 105 persons in positions of trust respectively.
Both Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Principal Permanent Secretary Mario Cutajar have said in the past that they see no problem with the current system. The former pointed to previous administrations, while the latter claimed it was necessary for a highly competitive job market.
It should be noted that there are a number of posts that are expected to be filled by persons of trust, such as Chiefs of Staff and communications coordinators, but the employment of everyone from customer care officers to a security guard at the Addolorata Cemetery, dog handlers, cleaners, and maintenance officers raises serious questions.