The head of the civil service will be stepping down shortly. 

Civil service chief Mario Cutajar, the most powerful civil servant in the country, on Friday announced his intention to retire from the post later this month.

“This is my last chance to address you as the head of the civil service,” he said.

Cutajar said that last September he had informed Prime Minister Robert Abela about his intention to retire. 

He said Abela had asked him to see through the last legislature and help a new government get things in order. 

“I feel that now is the time to leave this post to the next pair of hands,” he said. 

Cutajar was speaking during the close of a week-long conference on the civil service. 

“I have no words to thank every one of you. I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” he said to a round of applause from the civil servants gathered at the MFCC conference hall.

A former deputy general secretary of the General Workers’ Union, Cutajar has been the public sector's boss since 2013, appointed on the same day Joseph Muscat was sworn in as prime minister. 

In the past, he worked in the private secretariat of prime ministers Dom Mintoff and Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici and was a parliamentary assistant to Labour MP Glenn Bedingfield when he served as an MEP.

He is described by government sources as the most powerful civil servant, even sitting in on Cabinet meetings over the past two legislatures. 

Recently, he locked horns with the parliamentary ombudsman, following criticism of the public service

Earlier this week, Cutajar hinted at cuts to public service employment, saying this could be on the cards if a review of government spending finds waste. 

On Friday, Cutajar said he wanted to measure the output of the public sector, because “whatever can be measured, can be improved”. 

What is the point of having an enthusiastic business community, he asked, if the country is hamstrung by a lethargic civil service? 

Addressing the same conference, Prime Minister Robert Abela described Cutajar as a "loyal, well-read, and cultured man" focused on what he wants to achieve and how to implement it.

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