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Poisoning the well of politics

If you’re sick of hearing about redeployment, audit and meritocracy, you are not alone. The words have been abused and their meaning ground out of recognition by one and all at GonziPN: from the Prime Minister and his acolytes to the Nationalist Party media mill.

It is crass hypocrisy to give different meanings to technical terms
- Helena Dalli

Nationalist speakers play about with them or ‘innocently’ reiterate: but what do these words mean? Obviously, their linguistic interest is not aimed at informing people but in distorting the real message.

On and on it goes. Labour highlights an unpalatable truth on some public sector inefficiency and the hypocrisy hell breaks loose. In line with this trend, the latest person mimicking questions on redeployment, audit and meritocracy was former minister, Francis Zammit Dimech. Like his parliamentary colleague, Beppe Fenech Adami before him, Zammit Dimech says he has a problem with these words.

Fenech Adami had said that redeployment meant political transfers. Zammit Dimech chose to play the innocence card and said, with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, that he doesn’t know what it means.

Both backbenchers, then, are presumably unaware that the Government has a unit on redeployment, headed by the Principal Permanent Secretary. When I spoke on the subject, it was about an effective strengthening of this existing unit. But this information was conveniently edited out.

For those who deliberately made a pig’s ear of the word redeployment, they should know that one of the performance targets of the Principal Permanent Secretary is “to provide advice and support to the Prime Minister on matters relating to the public service at the corporate level and, to this end, the officer is to review in particular the PAHRO structure with a view to converting the department into a fully fledged recruitment and redeployment unit”.

And this is from the resourcing directorate in the office of the Prime Minister: “The responsibilities of this directorate also extend to recruitment and redeployment within the wider public sector in terms of OPM circular No. 14/2005, which provides for the setting up of the redeployment and recruitment advisory group (RRAG).”

But this is alright, isn’t it? As long as it is GonziPN saying it, writing it, trying to implement it. The spinning starts if Labour dares utter the word redeployment.

Oh what a ball Fenech Adami had, prattling that redeployment (this new word, he said) means political transfers.

He was not on television to say the truth. His brief was to repeat, ad infinitum, that redeployment is a sin to be committed by the horrible Labour Party, if, God forbid, it wins the election.

A few years ago, we were discussing the Employment and Training Services Act in Parliament in order to – as the Employment Minister had put it – “facilitate redeployment within the public sector”. He also said that the Bill gives the Government the opportunity to manage the human resources of the public sector in order to remain as competitive as possible.

How is this different from what I had said, following which the Nationalist Party media went ballistic?

Clearly, Zammit Dimech was given the same brief as Fenech Adami, which he obeyed to the letter. The former also asked about what is meant by audit, parroting the Prime Minister who had broached the subject the previous Sunday.

Is Zammit Dimech not aware that some audits already take place? Does he not agree that the existing audit structures need to be reinforced so that the exercise can be taken regularly and, possibly, across the board? This, for the sake of transparency, accountability and efficiency, which – even the World Bank is pointing out – are on the wane.

Only last month, the Auditor General published a report which speaks, among many other things, of “organisational amnesia” that is “common in agencies/authorities” whereby “functions that were carried out with a degree of accuracy and completeness in the traditional civil service, such as the maintenance and retrieval of departmental files, have deteriorated in more than one organisation.

“This degradation, inhibiting a reliable audit trail to be constructed, occurred during the metamorphosis from traditional civil service department to autonomous agency/authority”.

Have we heard GonziPN say how this will be addressed?

No. They are too busy trying to instill fear in people about audits in the public service and public sector because the Labour party mentioned them.

I spoke about the importance of these audits and that we should have more of them and provide more resources so that they are not one-offs but a regular exercise. What’s more, we must act on the results.

It is thus crass hypocrisy to give different meanings to technical terms, depending on which side of the political divide they are uttered. This attitude certainly helps to poison our well of politics even more.

Helena Dalli is shadow minister for the public sector, government investments and gender equality.

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