Salaries for the top brass within the civil service should be at par with those in regulatory authorities and State agencies as it made no sense to be paid less for having greater responsibilities.

Culture Minister Jose Herrera raised the point in parliament during a debate on a Bill aimed to empower certain authorities to take decisions of a technical nature directly, rather than recommending advice to the minister.

Herrera welcomed the move but warned against going to an extreme whereby members of government would be hindered from implementing certain policy decisions. 

On the other hand, he pointed out that it made no sense vesting the top brass within the civil service, such as permanent secretaries, heads of department and directors-general with more responsibilities when their salary package paled in comparison to their respective grades in authorities and State agencies.

“A director-general of an important department is bound by the civil service salary scale, but this is not reflected for a CEO of a state entity, or even a manager who in certain cases is paid even more than the minister,” he said.

“If this discrepancy is not addressed, the civil service will struggle to attract valid people and become weaker,” he added.

Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis, who opened the debate, noted that the Bill would affect 27 laws and 11 subsidiary legislation.  

These amendments would be a step forward as decisions on individual cases would not be taken by the politician but by the technocrat, he said.

“This would remove the perception of any undue influence by the minister,” Zammit Lewis said.

Furthermore, decisions based exclusively on the strength of technical grounds would no longer be taken by the politician. He added that the Bill was based on the principle of subsidiarity, whereby decisions would be taken in a bottom-up approach.

Opposition MP Karol Aquilina said the Opposition would support the Bill as it was in line with its principle in favour of the devolution of power.

MPs to be screened against coronavirus symptoms

At the start of the sitting, government Whip Glen Bedingfield announced that in agreement with the Opposition, it was decided to start thermally screening MPs and all parliamentary staff entering the building. Anybody having fever would be refused entry, he said. 

Opposition deputy leader David Agius said the measure was welcome but asked whether it was safe to hold meetings in the plenary chamber. Agius requested Speaker An─ílu Farrugia to seek the advice of the Superintendent for Public Health.

The Speaker pointed out that Malta was following the practice adopted by the House of Commons in the UK. Only MPs taking part in any given debate were present in the plenary at that time, with MPs remaining at a safe distance from each other to minimise the risk of contagion.

 

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