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'Sick leave' teachers suspended for three days

Presented medical certificates despite having been on shopping trip

Three teachers who reported sick but then went on a London shopping trip have been suspended for three days without pay by a disciplinary board, the Education Ministry has confirmed.

The three women had reported sick on October 30 last year but took an early morning flight to London. The shopping trip lasted until November 3, spanning the weekend and two mid-term holidays.

A doctor, sent by the Victoria Gozo college principal did not find the teachers at home on the same day they reported sick.

The teachers presented medical certificates to justify their absence, according to the Education Ministry. But after receiving reports that the teachers had actually been on a flight to London, disciplinary proceedings were instituted by the Gozo Ministry.

The Education Ministry brushed off responsibility when asked whether it was referring the case to the police for further investigation on possible incorrect use of medical certificates.

"This is not in our competence. The Gozo Ministry led disciplinary proceedings. You may wish to check with them what further action, if any, they will be taking," a spokesman for the Education Ministry said.

A spokesman for the Gozo Ministry said they had legal advice not to disclose any information related to the case, quoting Public Service Commission regulations that deal with disciplinary procedures.

"In view of article 40 of the Subsidiary Legislation entitled Disciplinary Procedure in the Public Service Commission Regulations, the information cannot be given or disclosed to any person, without having first obtained the written permission of the Prime Minister," the spokesman said.

Article 40 states that: "No member of the commission, nor the secretary, not any member of the staff of the commission, nor any public officer, board or authority, charged with powers and functions under these regulations, nor any other person shall, without the written permission of the Prime Minister, publish or disclose to any person, otherwise than in exercise of his official function, the contents of any document, communication or information whatsoever relating to any action taken under these regulations, which has come to his notice or knowledge."

The disciplinary board was appointed in the first week of December and a decision was taken at the end of January.

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