Recommendations not implemented: Addressing inconsistencies in pre-retirement leave for detailed Public Officers

Pursuant to Article 22(4) of the Ombudsman Act, the Parliamentary Ombudsman Judge Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon submitted two reports to the House of Representatives in relation to two complaints on inconsistencies in pre-retirement leave for detailed Public Officers.

The Case

Two public officers detailed with the Lands Authority filed a complaint after their requests for pre-retirement leave were denied. The Lands Authority contended that the provisions for pre-retirement leave applied only within the Public Service, not to employees detailed to other entities like the Lands Authority, unless they revoked their detailing.

The Investigation

The Ombudsman’s office undertook an investigation, including gathering responses from the Ministry for the Economy, European Funds and Lands, and the People & Standards Division within the Office of the Prime Minister. The Ministry highlighted that service conditions should be assessed as a whole, and detailed officers could not select benefits from the Public Service if their overall package at the Lands Authority were more advantageous. However, the Ombudsman identified that, according to the Lands Authority Act, detailed officers should not be subject to less favourable conditions than those in the Public Service, countering the Ministry’s interpretation.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The Ombudsman ruled in favour of the public officers’ requests for pre-retirement leave, stating that detailed public officers should not encounter less favourable conditions than those in the Public Service. If pre-retirement leave cannot be granted, they should receive monetary compensation equivalent to their leave entitlements. To avoid similar issues in the future, the Ombudsman advised that the People & Standards Division clarify the entitlement of detailed employees to pre-retirement leave in the Public Service Management Code and relevant manuals and ensure this is included in the collective agreements of authorities and public entities.

Outcome

Following two separate Final Opinions issued on the 11th of January 2024, which included recommendations, on the 15th of March, the Office of the Prime Minister informed the Office of the Ombudsman that it was not going to implement the recommendations because they had a wider impact on the public administration. The Ombudsman considered the response to the Final Opinions unsatisfactory, as it failed to address the grievances highlighted. Consequently, in accordance with Article 22(4) of the Ombudsman Act (Chapter 385, Laws of Malta), the Final Opinions and relevant documentation were brought to the attention of the House of Representatives on the 25th March 2024.

Documents

11.01.24 – Final Opinion – Case 22-3333

11.01.24 – Final Opinion – Case 22-3696

15.03.24 – Email from OPM

21.03.24 – Letter to the Speaker

Media Releases