Recommendation not implemented: Final Opinion on space allocation dispute at the University of Malta

In accordance with Article 22(4) of the Ombudsman Act, the Ombudsman and the Commissioner for Education have forwarded to the House of Representatives the Final Opinion on a grievance raised by a resident Associate Professor alleging improper discrimination by the University administration due to the denial of office space at the Medical School.

The Case

The complaint was filed with the Office of the Ombudsman by a resident Associate Professor within the Department of Pathology of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery. The complainant alleged improper discrimination by the University administration due to being denied office space at the Medical School, a location deemed appropriate for her faculty’s teaching staff. The complaint also asserted that this denial was in violation of the Space Management Policy of the University of Malta.

The Investigation

The investigation included collecting evidence from various university staff, conducting an on-site inspection at the Medical School, and examining email exchanges between the Faculties of Medicine and Dental Surgery from September to December 2020. The findings revealed the following:

  1. The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on Space Management and Change of Use, effective from 5th August 2022, was intended to regulate future space requests without disrupting current space usage.
  2. The Faculty of Dental Surgery had repurposed rooms as changing rooms for dental staff and students prior to the SOP’s approval.
  3. There was a significant irrational use of space within the Medical School, with several rooms underutilised or inappropriately designated. For example, an office meant for the Dental Surgery Secretaries was used as the Dean’s Office despite the Dean having another office on Campus.

Conclusion and Recommendation

The complaint was primarily based on alleged discrimination. However, the investigation concluded that the discrimination claim was unfounded. The complainant’s frustration was understandable, yet the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery could not allocate rooms over which he had no jurisdiction; the overall allocation rested with the Rector.

Despite the dismissal of the discrimination claim, the investigation uncovered an element of maladministration in space allocation within the Medical School. It was recommended that the Rector take urgent measures to rectify the irrational use of space currently occupied by the Faculty of Dental Surgery in the interest of the common good.

Outcome

Following the recommendation from the Commissioner for Education, the University has clearly indicated that it does not intend to comply with the recommendations. On 27th June 2024, the Commissioner for Education sent the report to the Prime Minister and as no action was taken, the report was subsequently sent to the Speaker of the House.

Documents

27.05.24 – Final Opinion

10.06.26 – Email from Rector

11.06.24 – Email to Rector

25.06.24 – Letter from Rector

26.06.24 – Letter to the Prime Minister

04.07.24 – Letter to the Speaker 

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