I have read the Bill to Amend the Public Administration Act presented by the government. My conclusion: it’s good for fiction, not law.

If there was ever a Bill proposed by Joseph Muscat’s government in these last five years that clearly shows how little he thinks of the Maltese and how much he thinks he can get away with political fiction, then this is it.

Let me unwrap all this.

Most of us (I dare not say all of us) agree it is sound good governance policy for those being appointed to a public office to be scrutinised by an independent body. After all, the appointment of people to public office means they are being paid from taxes and their decisions will affect the life of many citizens.

Consequently, it is only to be expected that they should be competent and deserving of the appointment for reasons other than simply being close to any politician, even if that is the Prime Minister himself.

Now let me stop you there in the mentality of us and them, the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party. I want these standards to apply to both and that is why I cherish the fact that it was a new PN policy that first proposed the setting up of a structure to scrutinise those moving towards such appointments.

The minister chooses, the committee advises, and the minister decides anyway

So whoever is in government I am in favour of the scrutiny of public appointees.

I do not mind that the government prefers a different structure to that proposed by the Opposition, after all it is not the form of the structure that is of essence but the integrity of that structure. And this is where Muscat’s government thinks us fools.

Under a Labour government, public appointees will be scrutinised by people appointed by the Labour government. From a committee of five people, three are to be appointed by the Prime Minister and three make a quorum. Forget even the us and them mentality (which I do not like anyway) but does this composition not already stink of a cover up?

A nice dress put on for a party which you really do not want to attend or participate in.

If that was not enough, the Bill does not tell us which public appointments will fall under this already lopsided scrutiny. So it is up to each and every minister to decide whether to submit an appointee of his to such scrutiny.

But there is yet another catch; nominees who are already in office (mainly chairpersons of authorities and agencies) are secure for re-appointment without having to pass this scrutiny procedure.

To conclude all of this, the minister is to act as postman between the committee and the person selected for the post. To the extent that the committee must send any questions it intends to ask the appointee in writing to the minister who will then push back and forth the questions and replies. And to top it all up, the minister chooses, the committee advises, and the minister decides anyway.

This Bill offends the integrity of those currently holding a public appointment and those who in the future will be selected to hold such an appointment but who are deserving of such post on the basis of integrity and meritocracy. They do not need a cover-up for their appointment.

Therese Comodini Cachia is the Nationalist Party spokeswoman on education and employment.

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