Updated at 1.45pm, adds PN statement
An investigation by the Ombudsman into controversial promotions made by the Armed Forces of Malta found that the process was “vitiated”, lacked integrity and was intended to “produce a desired outcome”.
Ombudsman Anthony Mifsud said one of the main issues that led to the process being simply “a screen for the choice made” was that two of the members on the selection board had been persons of trust without any specialisation in military affairs.
The controversial promotions in September 2013 included that of the present commander, Jeffrey Curmi, who had leapfrogged from major to brigadier – four promotions – in a matter of months.
The investigation itself had ended up as a legal wrangle in court when former home affairs minister Manuel Mallia filed a case against former Ombudsman Joseph Said Pullicino.
Dr Mallia, who eventually resigned when his official driver was involved in a shooting incident during a traffic accident, argued that the Ombudsman lacked jurisdiction to hear complaints by army officers who did not resort first to the ordinary remedy granted by law.
Two years later, Mr Justice Lawrence Mintoff ruled that the Ombudsman had authority to investigate complaints by army officers. He ordered the ministry to provide the Ombudsman with all the documentation he required to continue his investigation.
Mr Mifsud found that two people who occupied positions of trust in the Home Affairs Ministry at the time and who had been appointed to the selection advisory board – then deputy chief of staff, Ramona Attard, and head of customer care Clint Cutajar – “were not cognisant of public service protocol, let alone specific regulation of the armed forces”.
Intended to produce a desired outcome
“In other words, these two individuals were political appointees and not public officers, inured to the civil service tradition and aware of the rules and regulations pertinent to the selection processes, especially military ones,” he said.
In addition, four of the five members of the committee did not have any military knowledge.
The Ombudsman tabled his report in Parliament on Wednesday after concluding that “the selection process was conducted in an unprofessional manner and did not achieve the necessary rigour”.
The investigation “did not give this office the comfort the selection was done properly”, he said, adding there seemed to have been more promotions than the vacancies warranted.
The Ombudsman pointed out that, as a rule, no person of trust should be appointed on panels intended to select people for the service of the government in public or military offices. In his recommendations, Mr Mifsud urged the authorities to redress the injustice and radically review and revise the existing selection and promotion procedures “to ensure a high level of transparency”.
In a letter to the Ombudsman, Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia said he was “in disagreement” with the majority of the conclusions reached. However, Dr Farrugia said he would discuss the conclusions “at length internally and take them into consideration for future processes”.
In a statement, the Nationalist Party said it expected the Prime Minister to shoulder political responsibility for allowing such abuses and for justice to be made with those in the army who had suffered.
The PN, it said, had spoken out and protested about such abuses and the government had tried to ridicule the Opposition. But now, five years later, it had been proved right.
It said it would continue to be the voice and shield of people suffering injustices and would remain committed to remedy the injustices once it returned to government.
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