Disgraced selection board can be named
‘No reason for them not to made public’
Data Protection Commissioner Joseph Ebejer has rebuffed the Health Ministry’s claim that the members of a disgraced selection board could not be named because of legal restrictions.
The selection board last year picked four individuals to fill medical consultancy posts, despite none of them satisfying vacancy requirements.
Board members then re-acted to a Public Service Commission request to explain themselves by disclaiming responsibility for the appointments, prompting the PSC to call for the board’s dissolution.
The ministry, citing data protection concerns, has declined to reveal the identity of the board members, saying simply that the members’ disclaiming of responsibility was “unprecedented” and could be subject to disciplinary action “if necessary”.
But the data commissioner has now said there was no reason for the ministry to keep the members’ identities under wraps.
“I don’t see there is any data protection issue in this case,” Mr Ebejer said.
“People are appointed to government boards in their official capacity, not as private citizens.
“There is no reason for the board members’ names not to be made public,” he said.
Mr Ebejer adopted a rhetorical tone. “If an MP were to ask for the board members’ names in a parliamentary question, would they get an answer?”
If the ministry’s data protection claim held water, the answer would be “no”, he continued.
He recalled how, as permanent secretary within the then-Social Policy Ministry, he would regularly process PQs requesting the names of selection board members.
The president of the Medical Association of Malta, Martin Balzan, defended the ministry’s decision and said board members’ names need not be publicised.
“The four cancelled appointments stem from grey areas in the 2007 agreement between the MAM and the government. You can never think of all the possible permutations when drafting such an agreement,” Dr Balzan said.
Those grey areas had now been ironed out, following the PSC’s “serious” investigation into the appointments on the MAM’s request, he said.
It was now clarified that candidates to medical consultancy posts must be registered in Malta as specialists and have two years of specialist experience from the date of their registration.
Such requirements had already been in place. They have now been clarified to prevent any future misinterpretation by selection boards. “We are happy with the way things have gone, though it would have been better had things moved quicker because it is patients who lose out in such cases,” Dr Balzan said.
He argued that it was unfair to target the selection board members in question, given that a PSC decision could have contributed to the bungle.
“Board members are extremely competent in their medical fields but not as well-versed in administrative matters.
“And, at the time, the PSC had decided not to appoint a civil servant to the Health Ministry’s selection board.”
Health Minister Joe Cassar and the permanent secretary, Kenneth Grech, had both done the right thing in waiting for the PSC to conclude its investigation before taking action, Dr Balzan added.
Questions sent to the PSC were not replied to at the time of writing.