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Environment Ministry and PL customer care units occasionally 'meet and phone'

'Coordination with other entities is essential' - ministry's chief of staff

The Environment Ministry’s Customer Care Unit is occasionally in contact with that at the Labour Party headquarters, it was implied at the Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday.

Environment Ministry chief of staff Pierre Vassallo replied in the affirmative to questions by committee member Jason Azzopardi and chairman Beppe Fenech Adami during the ongoing debate on WasteServ’s engagement of the services of several workers from contractor JF prior to the last general election.

Read: Wasteserv often used as a vehicle to employ ministry workers, CEO tells MPs

Mr Vassallo said that the two units “phone each other” and “meet” adding that coordinating with other entities was essential to help clients and answer queries.

Asserting that the existence of such meetings was “news to me”, Dr Fenech Adami questioned whether there was any fixed procedure for these communications, to which Mr Vassallo responded in the negative.

He denied that he had ever been involved directly in any WasteServ engagement, but said he had been involved in deliberations leading to the formation of the task-force entrusted with cleansing the valleys, and which, he said, had made use of WasteServ to engage the services of workers to carry out this task.

Read: ‘We did not recruit people capriciously’ – Wasteserv CEO

Mr Vassallo pointed out that there had been lots of fires in Maltese valleys in summer 2017, and that these tended to result from the illegal disposal of glass bottles. In the past, people had also died as a result of the flooding of Qormi valley, which had urgently needed to be cleared of heavy waste before winter.

Despite the urgent work that had needed to be carried out, the Valley Management Unit had been transferred to the Environment Ministry without any manpower or equipment of its own, and none of the other departments involved in the valley task-force had been willing to transfer any of their own personnel or equipment.

For this reason, contracts of service had been entered into by WasteServ to provide the task-force with personnel as a stopgap until the Valley Management Unit could develop its own human resource policy and begin to recruit personnel through regular channels. The workers would return to WasteServ when they were no longer needed by the task-force.

When questioned why the Environment Ministry did not request the transfer of the unit’s former personnel from the Works Department, Mr Vassallo said he had not been directly involved but assured the committee that such a solution would have been discussed and considered.

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