The Public Service Commission has been dealt a blow by the Courts which ordered it to suspend a promotion and give a government employee access to information on job interviews after he claimed the exercise was vitiated.
The commission is a constitutional organ responsible for staffing and discipline within the public service.
Following a law suit against the PSC and the Gozo Ministry by Joseph Bajada, an engineer who felt aggrieved by a recent promotion exercise, Mr Justice Wenzu Mintoff ordered the PSC to freeze the exercise and to give Mr Bajada access to all the information required in order to defend his position.
The issue goes back to last summer when the Gozo Ministry issued a call for the post of assistant director for public cleansing in Gozo.
Despite the fact that he had been deputising for the post issued for promotion since 2006, Mr Bajada, an engineer by profession, placed second in the interview and was awarded two marks less than the applicant who placed first.
Feeling aggrieved, Mr Bajada filed a complaint petition to the PSC, as required by law, challenging the promotion exercise.
His petition was accepted and Mr Bajada was asked to produce his comments and defence in writing, but the PSC refused to give him a copy of the file relating to the way the promotion exercise had been conducted and how the interviewing board arrived at its conclusions.
Despite insisting on his right to access all the information, even through his lawyer Ian Spiteri Bailey, the PSC kept insisting that it would only grant Mr Bajada information about his interview and not those of the other candidates.
The issue was referred to the Civil Court, asking for a prohibitory injunction to stop the PSC from awarding the promotion until he was given access to the documents so he could submit his defence.
The Court upheld his plea and, in a strongly worded judgment, noted that while it would not enter into the merits of who should be promoted, as this was the competence of the PSC, the constitutional body “was bound to observe the principles of natural justice in every process it handles”.
The court made it clear that Mr Bajada should be given access to all the information, including the results of the other candidates, in order to be in a position to make his representations in the best possible way.
The Court threw out an argument brought by the PSC that the promotion exercise should still continue as the government would not be able to meet public cleansing targets if it was not concluded.
The court observed that Mr Bajada has been effectively heading the department since 2006 and nothing was going to happen if the situation was to be prolonged by a few more weeks until his petition was heard and the exercise fully concluded.
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