Civil service chief Mario Cutajar on Tuesday questioned whether the Ombudsman upholds the same standards on persons of trust that he expects of others.

The Ombudsman has long criticised the employment of people from outside the civil service on a so-called “position of trust” basis, even questioning if it is in conformity with the constitution.

Addressing a press conference about government action on the Ombudsman's annual report, Cutajar said the Ombudsman needed to be clearer about his own standards on persons of trust. 

Asked by Times of Malta whether his barb at the Ombudsman was a tacit acknowledgment of a problem when it came to positions of trust, Cutajar said there should be a “procedure” to establish if the Ombudsman himself could hire people on a position of trust basis.

“I am informed that he does have people employed on a position of trust basis”, Cutajar said.

On the civil service’s own standards when it comes to positions of trust, Cutajar again hit out at the Ombudsman.

“He [the Ombudsman] criticises us every year. Our procedures about the employment of persons of trust are public.

“They leave when the minister who employed them leaves. There is a clear standard. There is a manual…Just like we have standards, he [the Ombudsman] should have standards too”, Cutajar said.

During the press conference, Cutajar said the vast majority of the 329 cases referred to the civil service by the Ombudsman had been resolved.

He said the civil service takes a deeper dive into the cases than the Ombudsman himself.

“We report on every case, the action taken and the outcome. The Ombudsman is an important institution. It is important because sometimes cases fall through the cracks of bureaucracy”.

Cutajar spoke of the need to introduce new standards dictating timeframes for how long an Ombudsman investigation could last.

He said the civil service has put an entire structure in place to make sure cases were tackled, with each ministry having its own ombudsman liaison officer to help deal with cases.

Cutajar said there were a number of cases that had become “stuck” at the Ombudsman’s office, without the government ever receiving any feedback about whether they had been resolved.

“We want to be notified when a case is closed. There should be full transparency in the processes, and a closer relationship between the Ombudsman and public administration,” Cutajar said.

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