All posts by Jurgen Cassar

The Office of the Ombudsman participates in the annual Freshers’ Week at the Institute of Tourism Studies

The Office of the Ombudsman participates in the annual Freshers’ Week event organized by the Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS).

The aim of the information stand from the Office of the Ombudsman is to provide students and academics with information about the roles and functions of both the Ombudsman and the Commissioner for Education.

This initiative is part of the ongoing outreach efforts to bring the Office of the Ombudsman closer to the public.

Ombudsman meets the Council of the Malta Chamber

Following an invitation by The Malta Chamber, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, Judge Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon, met with the Chamber. This council is composed of 19 elected members responsible for overseeing the business affairs of the Chamber, lead by President Chris Vassallo Cesareo.

The primary aim of the meeting was to enhance understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the Ombudsman in guaranteeing a fair and transparent public service. During this session, the Ombudsman elaborated on his jurisdiction and the procedure for investigating complaints. These complaints can come from individuals, such as citizens and residents, or organisational bodies like The Malta Chamber itself. The Ombudsman also discussed the ‘own initiative investigation’ procedure and the tangible outcomes stemming from issues encountered in people’s daily lives.

The members present for the meeting had the opportunity to raise issues and ask the Ombudsman questions related to challenges they encountered. The President of The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Mr Christopher Vassallo Cesareo, stated that, “The Malta Chamber is committed to foster a relationship of collaboration between the two organisations. We will continue to explore opportunities for future collaboration between the Ombudsman’s office and the Malta Chamber particularly in championing better good governance and fair public procurement.”

The Ombudsman emphasised his office’s meticulous, fact-based approach in investigations, ensuring that they bolster enforcement and see through their findings. He reaffirmed his dedication to fostering a just public administration through conviction. He highlighted that an efficient public administration not only benefits the general public but also the business community and the administration itself.

The Ombudsman expressed his availability for future meetings, including with the broader membership of The Malta Chamber.

The Office of the Ombudsman at the International Conference of Ombudsman in Rome

The Office of the Ombudsman took part in the International Conference of Ombudsman in Rome between 21-22 September. This conference was organised by the Ombudsman of the Lazio Region and the President of the National Coordination of Italian Ombudsmen, Mr. Marino Fardelli.

The event was hosted in the Chamber of Deputies Hall of Parliamentary Groups within the Italian Parliament, with discussions centered around ‘The Role of the Ombudsman in the World between reality and possibility.’

Ombudsmen and Human Rights Defenders from various continents attended the conference. Key topics included the role of the ombudsman in bridging the gap between citizens and local public authorities and the influence of digital transformation on the ombudsman’s duties.

Participants also discussed pressing global issues such as human rights during global crises, migration and cross-border conflicts challenges, and the right to health. The discussions explored access to care, the needs of vulnerable populations, and ways the ombudsman can improve public health services.

Moreover, the conference served as a platform for networking, allowing delegates from different jurisdictions to exchange ideas and share experiences.

Representing the Office of the Ombudsman were Mr. Paul Borg, Director General, and Mr. Jurgen Cassar, Head of Communications and Research.

Mediator of the Kingdom of Morocco responds to Parliamentary Ombudsman’s message of support

Following the recent earthquake in Marrakech, the Mediator of the Kingdom of Morocco, Mr Mohammed Benanilou, acknowledged the message of support from the Parliamentary Ombudsman, Judge Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon.

In his response, the Mediator expressed gratitude for the condolence letter, highlighting its importance during these challenging times. The support and understanding from international colleagues have been pivotal, offering strength and comfort to those impacted.

Mr Benanilou emphasised the morale boost derived from such empathetic gestures, asserting their role in fuelling hope and determination for the nation as it embarks on the journey of rebuilding and recovery post-earthquake.

This interaction exemplifies the deep-seated connections and mutual support shared between nations during moments of adversity.



MARIUPOL: (UN)LOST HOPE – A commemoration of resilience and remembrance event in Rome

The Office of the Ombudsman participated in the thematic side event “MARIUPOL: (UN)LOST HOPE”. This event was organised by the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights and the President of the Italian Ombudsmen and Ombudsman of the Lazio Region, Mr. Marino Fardelli, in Rome. The event formed part of the International Ombudsman Conference taking place from September 21 to 22.

The event highlighted the significant challenges Mariupol, Ukraine, encountered during the conflict with Russia. A documentary, “Mariupol: Unlost Hope”, was showcased, presenting the personal experiences of Mariupol residents during the early days of the invasion. Through the stories of three women and two men, attendees gained insights into the difficult decisions and the realities of living through a conflict.

Expressions of solidarity with Ukraine and its people were a central theme. Speakers included the Ukrainian Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Dmytro Lubinets; the President of the Italian Ombudsmen and Ombudsman of the Lazio Region, Mr. Marino Fardelli; and the President of the International Ombudsman Institute and Ombudsman of Western Australia, Mr. Chris Field.

The Office of the Ombudsman in Malta, was represented by Mr. Paul Borg, Director General, and Mr. Jurgen Cassar, Head of Communications and Research.

Monthly meetings by the Office of the Ombudsman in Gozo

Strengthening Accessibility in Gozo

To better serve our community and uphold our commitment to accessibility, The Office of the Ombudsman is holding regular monthly meetings in Gozo. These sessions are specially designed for persons and complainants residing in Gozo.

Details of the Meetings:

When: Every first Saturday of the month.
Time: 08:30am – 11:00am.
Where: Volunteer Centre, Triq ta` Lambert, Xewkija.

Upcoming Sessions:

OCTOBER: Saturday, 7th October
NOVEMBER: Saturday, 4th November

For additional information or queries, the public is kindly invited to:

Call: 2248 3216

The Ombudsman presents his first Ombudsplan to the Speaker of the House

In accordance with Section 10(4) of the Ombudsman Act 1995 (Chapter 385 of the Laws of Malta), the Ombudsman, Judge Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon, has presented his first Ombudsplan to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Hon. Anġlu Farrugia.

The Ombudsplan 2024 outlines the activities planned for the ensuing year and details the initiatives that the Office of the Ombudsman will undertake. The main purpose of the Ombudsplan is to request the necessary budget from Parliament, which, upon approval by the House of Representatives, shall be a charge on the Consolidated Fund.

The document will be made public once it is tabled in Parliament following the summer recess. Subsequently, the Ombudsplan will be discussed during a special sitting of the House Business Committee.

The Ombudsman expresses solidarity with Morocco following the Marrakech earthquake

Judge Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon, the Parliamentary Ombudsman and Secretary General of the Association of Mediterranean Ombudsmen conveyed a heartfelt message of support to Mr Mohammed Benalilou, the Mediator of the Kingdom of Morocco, following the tragic earthquake in Marrakech.

In his letter, the Ombudsman extended his sympathies and emphasised the importance of unity, understanding, and mutual assistance during such challenging times. He assured the Moroccan Ombudsman Office of Malta’s readiness to offer support in any capacity beneficial to the people of Morocco.

Resolved Issue: The Office of the Ombudsman investigates missing site notice for Qala project

The Commissioner for Environment and Planning takes action on residents’ concerns

The Office of the Ombudsman investigated a matter of public concern by residents of Qala as reported by The Times of Malta on the 29th of August 2023 in an article titled ‘Residents report missing site notice at Qala project’. A site notice for a new construction project, specifically application PA/04643/23, reportedly went missing during its representation period. The application involves the construction of nine farmhouses with garages and swimming pools in an alley on Triq il-Wardija.

The issue

Residents noticed that the site notice, which provides information on the planned construction project, was missing during its active representation period. This period allows the public to express concerns or approvals about new projects and is crucial for transparency and public participation. The representation period for this specific application is currently active and will remain open until September 18, 2023.

Action taken

Following the report, Perit Alan Saliba, the Commissioner for Environment and Planning in the Office of the Ombudsman, took immediate action by communicating with the Planning Authority.

Planning Authority’s response

The Planning Authority has informed the Commissioner that they have issued a letter to the applicant. The letter directs the applicant to promptly place a site notice in a location visible from the public road. It also emphasises that photographic evidence should be kept to prove compliance with this legal requirement. The Planning Authority made it clear that failure to comply could result in the re-publication of the application, subsequently extending the legislative processing time-frame by six weeks.

Statement issued by the Ombudsman and the Commissioners within the Ombudsman’s Office

The Ombudsman draws attention to the fact that some complaints lodged with this Office are based on, or refer to, failure by the Public Administration to reply or to reply within a reasonable time, to queries sent by email to public officers or other persons to whom the Public Administration Act applies.

The Principal Permanent Secretary, acting pursuant to powers conferred by the above mentioned Act, has issued directives to uphold standards for Service of Excellence offered by the Public Administration to the Public and to Public Employees.

Clause 3.2 of the current directives refers to Communication by Electronic Mail. This clause is being reproduced in its entirety for the information of the general public.

Communication by Electronic Mail

3.2.1. Each incoming request for information or guidance received through e-mail is to be checked and acknowledged within 1 (one) working day from the time they are received. Whenever a received request is incomplete, the client shall be duly informed of the required missing data/documentation, within 1 (one) working day from the time of the receipt of the request.

3.2.2. Incoming requests/queries which can be addressed by the receiving organisation, and decisions thereof do not require further consultation, shall be replied in full within 1 (one) working day from their receipt. In such cases, the acknowledgment as per paragraph 3.2.1 is not required.

3.2.3. Incoming requests/queries which are of a complex nature and/or require consultation with internal/external stakeholders and therefore cannot be replied to within 1 (one) working day (as per 3.2.2 above), this shall still be acknowledged as indicated in 3.2.1 above.

The acknowledgement shall also include a short note indicating the expected timeframe by when a final reply shall be given.

When requests / queries are of a complex nature, a final reply shall be provided as follows:

    • By not later than three (3) working days from the date of the receipt of the query;
    • This timeframe may be extended to five (5) working days, for reasonably justified reasons;
    • This timeframe may be extended up to ten (10) working days for exceptional and reasonably justified reasons.

3.2.4 In exceptional cases, the respective Permanent Secretary may concede a longer period, depending on the nature of the case; for instance in issues regarding due diligence, and legal aspects. In such instances, the respective Permanent Secretary should inform the Quality of Service Directorate of these exemptions.

In all cases requiring a delay in the provision of a final reply, for justifiable reasons, the client shall invariably be informed that their request is being processed and that owing to the nature of the case, more time is required for a final decision or reply to be provided. An indication of the expected time by which the client should receive a reply should also be provided. During exceptional circumstances, management need to ensure that the client is kept updated on a periodic basis, informing them that the query is still pending due to the given circumstance, and on the way forward.

3.2.5. In cases where requests/queries cannot be answered by the receiving organisation, or staff member, the latter shall send an acknowledgement to the client within 1 (one) working day from the receipt of the request/query informing them that the query shall be forwarded to the relevant organisation which can address the request/query. The name of the organisation to which the query will be forwarded shall be indicated in the notification sent to the client. Moreover, the client shall be provided with the name and contact number of the organisation or officer to whom the query is being forwarded. The organisation receiving the forwarded query shall abide by the timeframes stipulated in sections 3.2.2 – 3.2.3 above. 

3.2.6. The provisions outlined under 3.2.5 above apply also to requests/queries received through generic e-mail accounts.

3.2.7 Generic email accounts shall have an automatic reply acknowledging receipt of emails in real time. Generic email accounts are to be accessed by more than one official to ensure continuity. 

3.2.8. Automatic out-of-office replies should invariably be used when an officer is absent from the office for a period of one or more working days. In the out-of-office replies, officers shall indicate when they are expecting to be back in office, and the name and contact details of the officer who can be contacted in their stead. Out-of-office messages should be both in the Maltese and English languages.

3.2.9 Officers on telework or remote working are still expected to reply to their e-mails in the timeframes established by this Directive.”

It is hoped the concientious adherence to these directives will see to the total elimination of complaints which refer to delays in replies to emails.

Resolved Issue: Vehicle idling on Gozo Ferries: Health implications & actions taken

The Case

On the 2nd of August 2023, the Times of Malta published a letter from Mr Emanuel Galea of Victoria, highlighting a significant health concern on Gozo ferries. The issue pertained to several vehicles that kept their engines running throughout the ferry crossing, exposing both passengers outside these vehicles and the Gozo Channel crew to potentially toxic emissions in an area with limited ventilation. The letter further mentioned that when the Gozo Channel crew attempted to address the issue with the drivers of these vehicles, they were often ignored.

The Inquiry

The Office of the Ombudsman, acknowledging the seriousness of the concerns raised by Mr Galea, initiated a direct engagement with the Gozo Channel. The objective was to gain a deeper understanding of the established policies and measures pertaining to such occurrences. Specifically, the Ombudsman’s Office sought clarity on the Gozo Channel’s Shipboard Operating Procedures and any other related guidelines that address the issue of vehicles idling during transit and passengers staying on the car deck.

Upon investigation, the Gozo Channel confirmed the existence of their Shipboard Operating Procedures, which explicitly prohibit passengers from remaining on the car deck during ferry transit. Additionally, they provided a Fleet Letter that instructs crew members to inform passengers about the inherent risks and policy violations related to staying inside their vehicles with engines running.


To further address the matter and ensure the safety of all aboard, the Gozo Channel disclosed an upcoming initiative: starting from the 18th of August, a police officer would be assigned to inspect ferries daily between 8.00 am and 6:00 pm. This step is expected to bolster enforcement, ensuring compliance with ferry regulations and promoting the health and safety of both passengers and crew.

Ombudsman and Commissioner for Education update the House of Representatives on a complaint lodged by two sixth-form teachers

On the 3rd of August 2023, the Ombudsman and the Commissioner for Education updated the Speaker of the House of Representatives in connection with a Final Opinion which had been laid on the Table of the House in April 2023.

Two sixth-form teachers had complained about the unjust situation resulting from the pegging of calls for teachers in private and church schools with those issued by the Ministry for Education.

In their letter of the 3rd of August 2023 the Ombudsman and the Commissioner for Education informed the Speaker that by letter dated 2nd June 2023, the Principal Permanent Secretary had informed the Ombudsman’s Office that the Administration did not intend to implement the recommendations made in the Final Opinion dated 2nd February 2023. The Office of the Ombudsman responded to this letter, and a copy of the exchange is attached herewith:

02.06.2023 – Letter from the Principal Permanent Secretary

03.08.2023 – Commissioner for Education to the Principal Permanent Secretary

03.08.2023 – Letter to the Speaker