Every single government ministry has ignored questions sent to their respective official spokespersons about the number of people employed in state-appointed bodies falling under the remit of their ministries. The questions remain unanswered, and unacknowledged, more than a week after they were sent.
On 13 November, The Shift published an investigation revealing there has been a 14.6% increase in government employees on ministry payrolls over the past 12 months, swelling ranks from 29,553 in 2020 to 33,870.
However, these numbers represent just a fraction of government employee numbers – a total of 550 appointed bodies including state corporations, decision-making boards and authorities, remain unaccounted for as the government refuses to respond to questions about how many people are employed in each one of them.
None of the spokespersons sent as much as an acknowledgement response, providing no explanation whatsoever as to why the questions were being ignored. The Shift’s investigation into how many employees work for ministries was sourced from the government’s own data sets published with the Budget.
By far the largest ministry, both in terms of size of workforce and amount of appointed bodies is the Education Ministry. As of June of this year, the Education Ministry employed 10,081 people, overseeing 72 different state appointed bodies.
While the Health and Home Affairs Ministries also carry large numbers in terms of workforce, the Economy and Environment Ministries significantly outnumber Health and Home Affairs in terms of how many state-appointed bodies fall under their respective domains.
The Health and Home Affairs Ministries employ 8,901 and 4,781 people, respectively, while also overseeing 34 and 19 state-appointed bodies. The Economy and Environment Ministries employ 125 and 338 people respectively, but oversee 60 and 45 state-appointed bodies in that order, a much higher number of bodies than either Health or Home Affairs.
While available data would suggest that the Health and Home Affairs Ministries are in fact larger ministries in terms of employment, this cannot be fully determined without the missing data which the government is refusing to disclose. In other words, one cannot fully determine just how many people are employed at the Economy Ministry, for example, given that so much data is missing on 60 different entities.
While the practice of pre-election dishing out of public sector jobs is not something new, it is a practice that has intensified heavily under the rapidly-expanding Labour government.
While the government has denied it is undergoing a process of pre-election hiring to secure votes in return for jobs, the Malta Employers’ Association (MEA) has repeatedly warned of a ‘brain drain’ from the private sector as workers were being lured towards public sector employment ahead of the upcoming election.
Besides MEA, the Malta Chamber of Commerce and the Gozo Business Chamber also highlighted the same issues, calling for an independent review of the public sector and related employment practices. The government has resisted these efforts for transparency and auditing, not only through its outright denial that this transfer of workers seeking cushy public sector employment is even happening, but also through resistance in Parliament.
Opposition MPs were left without answers after they filed parliamentary questions addressed to government ministers in order to determine how many people were employed in positions of trust in each ministry along with what kind of contractual conditions they are subject to.
When Opposition MPs complained to the Speaker of the House that virtually every single minister asked to list persons of trust simply redirected them to the public service management manual, Speaker Anġlu Farrugia claimed he was powerless to force ministers to answer otherwise.