While former transport minister Aaron Farrugia may have lost his place in the recent cabinet reshuffle, a number of permanent secretaries have retained their government and state-funded positions despite various public scandals and controversies.
Taking the opportunity to implement changes among permanent secretaries, the head of the civil service, Tony Sultana, decided to keep Gozo Permanent Secretary John Borg on board despite his negative track record and a recent damning report by the National Audit Office (NAO).
Borg, one of the longest-serving permanent secretaries, surviving three different ministers for Gozo, will remain in his position for another term despite repeated failures.
In its report, the NAO noted repeated delays from the Gozitan permanent secretary when providing the necessary documents required for the audit and explaining his decisions, which amounted to gross maladministration.
Sultana also confirmed the appointment of Joyce Dimech, also from Gozo, as permanent secretary, even though she was transferred from Owen Bonnici’s Culture Ministry to Byron Camilleri’s Home Affairs Ministry.
Dimech has hit the headlines negatively during the past years, including for failing to take action on claims of sexual harassment at the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, falling within her then-ministry’s remit, despite information being reported directly to her.
Dimech also failed to ensure that contracts issued with her signature, including various consultancies given to Albert Marshall, were respected. She also allowed them to continue despite breaches of public service rules.
Overall, Sultana’s ‘reshuffle’, which government sources said was dictated by Prime Minister Robert Abela, included just a few changes.
Kevin Mahoney, previously at the Ministry of Home Affairs, has been assigned to the Culture Ministry while former Civil Protection head Emanual Psaila, who had resigned from the Ministry of Home Affairs following a quarrel with Minister Byron Camilleri, has now been parked at the Housing Ministry.
The Health Ministry is now assigned to Jo Etienne Abela, who has two permanent secretaries, Joe Chetcuti and Christine Schembri.
Former health minister and current Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne is the new minister for EU funds, Social Dialogue and Consumer Protection and a nominee for EU commissioner.
During the past decade, permanent secretaries have lost most of their independence, becoming almost an unofficial rubber stamp for their ministers.
According to the Constitution, permanent secretaries are supposed to act as ministry watchdogs for upholding civil service rules.
In 2013, when Labour entered government, all permanent secretaries were asked to resign, violating protocols so that the new government could appoint its chosen officials.