The government’s jobless scheme has sent scores of workers to placements with Gozitan local councils, many of which are responsible for no more than a few hundred residents, new data revealed in parliament has shown.
Additional information tabled in parliament following questions by PN MP Joseph Ellis shows that while Maltese local councils were mostly assigned a couple of workers each from the Community Workers Scheme (CWS), Gozo councils, normally smaller in size, both in territory and households, have been given significantly more ‘helpers’ through the programme.
The Zebbug local council, one of the smallest in the whole country, population-wise, has been assigned as many as 15 community workers, while concurrently, a further five have been engaged at the locality’s primary school, with yet another employed to take care of the locality’s rarely used shooting range.
Other Gozitan local councils have also been boosted by the influx of community workers, including nine at the Xaghra local council, four at the Sannat Local Council and another four assigned to the locality’s football club, 10 at the Qala local council, five each for Nadur and Munxar and six for Kercem.
According to parliamentary figures, the scheme, which started with 600 workers in 2014 has now almost doubled to 1,091 participants, all put on a state-funded wage as part of a supposedly ‘training’ initiative.
Thirty per cent of all participants hail from Gozo where the CWS has proved to be an effective ‘avenue’ for many to be given government jobs without needing to go through the normal recruitment channels.
Apart from local councils, the scheme’s workers are also assigned to carry out mostly maintenance jobs at public schools and NGOs.
Once again, Gozitan organisations are among those assigned most participants, with the Gozo Football Association topping the list, with 15 full time workers assigned to it.
The CWS was intended to provide training to the long-term unemployed in order to assist them to eventually find a ‘proper’ job in the private sector and move on. However, despite the intention for the scheme to be phased out once the 600 participants had left, instead the programme has expanded.
Having assigned the management of the scheme to its former political partner, the General Workers Union, the Labour government appears to have transformed it into a new government-jobs recruitment agency.
Surveillance of participants on the job is considered very low, especially in Gozo, leading to allegations that many of the participants spend only a few hours on their ‘official’ jobs, while carrying on with their private activities elsewhere.
This scheme is costing taxpayers some €15 million a year including hundreds of thousands in management fees charged by the GWU.
Last June a new government call was issued for an eight-year management contract of the scheme, valued at €113 million. The evaluation by the contracts department is still ongoing.