Permanent secretary discriminates to shield minister’s friends

Gozo Ministry Permanent Secretary John Borg is shielding three senior Ministry officials from the consequences of criminal charges they are facing over involuntary homicide.

Borg’s decision not to implement existing rules established by the public service was described as “blatant discrimination” by senior public servants who spoke to The Shift.

According to long-established rules in the Public Service Management Code (PSMC), all public officers arraigned in court on criminal charges are automatically suspended from work and put on half-pay in what is called a “precautionary suspension” exercise.

While Borg has implemented this rule against other senior public officials in the past, he decided to take a different approach following the recent criminal proceedings against three of his highest officials and close collaborators.

Earlier this week, The Shift revealed that Gozo Ministry Director General Vicky Xuereb, Director Joseph Cutajar and Joseph Xuereb, a manager from Xewkija, appeared before Magistrate Leonard Caruana, accused of negligence, unprofessionalism, and breaches of Health and Safety regulations that caused the death of a 52-year-old employee from Xewkija.

In March 2021, Charlie Attard was assigned by the ministry to carry out refurbishment works at a Dwejra public convenience under the Community Worker Scheme. No permit was sought for these works, making them illegal. Attard was killed when the ceiling of the public convenience that he was working on collapsed.

The three senior ministry officials were arraigned and held responsible for Attard’s death following a magisterial inquiry, but their court charges were kept under wraps, and the Gozo Ministry, the police and other government authorities refrained from informing the public.

The Shift also reported that the thee officials were not suspended as they should have been according to public service procedures. Asked to justify his decision not to suspend them, and to state whether he had received any instructions to act in this way, Borg did not reply.

The Times of Malta later quoted government sources in saying that Borg decided it was not in the public interest to suspend the three officials because they were accused of involuntary manslaughter and had “an exemplary record”.

The three are facing accusations of negligence in both their personal and professional capacity.

A law for gods

Sources at the ministry described Borg’s “exception” as another order from above that he had to obey. They said the same permanent secretary, who had taken up his post in April 2014, did not hesitate to suspend other senior officials in the past, in some cases for much less serious reasons.

Borg suspended Anthony Debono, husband of former Gozo Minister Giovanna Debono, in 2015 when he was falsely accused of corruption in court. He was later cleared of all charges.

Borg also suspended Mark Formosa, a Ministry Director, and architect Angelo Portelli, a senior official, in July 2017 following a statement by then Minister Justyne Caruana that the two were being investigated by the police over claims of corruption. The two were close to Caruana’s predecessor, Minister Anton Refalo, and were kept on half pay though no charges were ever brought against them.

Ministry officials described the permanent secretary as “not his own man” and said he is only kept in place as long as he obeys orders.

“Everyone in Gozo, including Borg, knows the three accused public officials are very close to Minister Clint Camilleri and that is all that counts in the way the country is being administered,” the officials said.

Asked to explain his actions, Borg did not reply.

                           
                           
                               
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Out of Curiosity
Out of Curiosity
17 days ago

This article reflects the true state of the civil service today, which is totally controlled by politicians, and administered by unprofessional and weak permanent secretaries who are only loyal to their respective Ministers. It is so true that these appointed individuals who are supposed to give good example are so quick to take improper actions against those civil servants who do not toe the line, at the same time as they remain silent in front of corruption, harassment and blatant abuses.

makjavel
makjavel
17 days ago

The Permanent secretaries will be those who will face justice . No minister will protect them. Their time will come.

Gee Mike
Gee Mike
16 days ago
Reply to  makjavel

The sheer volume of corruption cases which need to be investigated, will take so long that they are all assured that nobody will face a sentence before at least 10-20 years after their death.
By design justice will never be served.

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