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Head of public sector laments 'leadership crisis'

Mario Cutajar

Mario Cutajar

Principal permanent secretary Mario Cutajar gave a rather critical overview of the public service saying that it had a "crisis in leadership" while describing certain aspects as a "farce".

Addressing a conference for senior civil service officials this morning, he said that the initiative was part of the government's commitment to improve the public sector.

During the event, 50 recommendations on the way forward, which would be discussed in various workshops, were presented. These proposal will be given to social partners next week.

Mr Cutajar said performance indicators for senior officials more often then not could only be described as being in a sorry state, branding them a farce.

On quality service charters, he said that these had also failed. As a result the government decided to amend the performance assessment of the permanent secretaries whom he referred to as ministry CEOs.

He said it was crucial to call a spade a spade and described as shameful the fact that certain parastatal entities who were given a budget amounting to millions had no power to employ a clerk.

Mr Cutajar also spoke about the 'baroque' culture of following rules by the book which often meant that the public sector was not flexible.

On a positive note he said that the public service had shown that it was able to adapt itself to numerous changes including Malta's accession in the EU.

He said that the government's vision for the civil service was for it to be able to decide and not delegate upwards, to deliver and make life easier for the public.

Mr Cutajar said the government was planning to have one stop shops in various sectors which were most likely to be of need to the public like those related to social services. These would start functioning next year.

Another initiative would be to update the disciplinary code and the Public Administration Act, which, he said, should be more customer oriented.

POLITICIANS SOMETIMES TO BLAME FOR 'NEGATIVE' IMPRESSION OF CIVIL SERVICE - PM

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said politicians were, at times, to blame for casting a negative impression on the civil service.

He urged civil servants to be active in the government's efforts to cut bureaucracy and said the most crucial change was in the process of decision making. Though the civil service was the country's major employer, it was still manageable and flexible.

He described as a "schizophrenic experience" the fact that the public at times ended up going round in circles when asking for help with public service officials referring them from one entity to another. Dr Muscat said that belated decisions, however good they could be, were no consolation at all.

The Prime Minister said that the central issue in this reform was to encourage and support public service officials to take the initiative and decide rather than delegate, even at the cost of not getting right the first time.

He also suggested that public service officials who took the initiative of simplifying certain processes and remove obsolete practices had to be rewarded.

Dr Muscat said the government wanted to be a model employer especially when it came to family friendly measures, which were the employer's duty to provide.

He also spoke about precarious employment admitting there were still cases in which it transpired that the minimum payment rates in public contracts were below the minimum wage.

He spoke against setting certain thresholds on the minimum experience required when issuing calls for the procurement of certain items and services.

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