Principal Permanent Secretary Mario Cutajar upped his attack against the Ombudsman, insinuating his office is partisan and going on to challenge its authority after he received a stern rebuke last week in which the Ombudsman reminded him that an independent institution does not report to him.
Sending a Right of Reply to newsrooms through the Department of Information (DOI), Cutajar hit out at the Ombudsman, implying his office was being partisan and mocking what he deems to be delays in the operations of the institution.
The Shift did not publish the Right of Reply. The Shift’s editor, Caroline Muscat, informed the DOI that the Principal Permanent Secretary’s “rant against the Ombudsman does not qualify as a Right of Reply under the law and as such the statement will not be published.”
The Shift informed the DOI that this was a poor attempt to use the Right of Reply to issue a government statement. The DOI never sends any government statements or notification of events to The Shift, insisting on excluding the newsroom on a rule that goes against the media law.
Yet, for his own purposes, Mario Cutajar acknowledged The Shift’s existence after never sending a single reply to any questions sent by this newsroom.
In a rare statement last week, the Ombudsman slammed Cutajar for making “insinuations, half-truths and allegations” against various constitutional offices, including the Auditor General and the Standards Commissioner, and reminded him that none of these offices fell within his remit.
In a clear dig at Cutajar and his well-known partisan style, the Ombudsman told Cutajar that “these institutions neither have a function to implement nor to push forward policies of the government of the day.”
Cutajar, 63, served as the GWU’s Deputy Secretary General for a number of years and also worked in the office of a Labour MEP before being made head of the civil service.
He authored a book on the history of the Malta Labour Party and formed part of the private secretariat of former Labour Prime Minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici after having been a follower of Dom Mintoff in his younger years.
One of his first decisions when appointed to head the civil service in 2013 by disgraced Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Cutajar forced the resignation of all the permanent secretaries and replaced most of them with loyalists at the head of government ministries.
On his watch, the public administration has been incessantly criticised by the institutions for bad governance, maladministration, nepotism, abuse and corruption.
Prime Minister Robert Abela has decided to retain Cutajar as his Principal Permanent Secretary and Cabinet Secretary. Cutajar used to work closely with the prime minister’s father, George Abela when he served as the GWU’s legal consultant.