Pursuant to Article 22(4) of the Ombudsman Act, the Ombudsman and the Commissioner for Education submitted to the House of Representatives the Commissioner’s Final Opinion on a complaint lodged by a teacher. The complaint focused on an unjust situation she faced after the Education Department altered a practice that was already in place when she began her university course in Maltese proofreading.
Summary of the Case
The complainant, a secondary school teacher of Maltese, graduated with a Master’s degree. A few years later, she successfully completed an MQF Level 5 undergraduate course in Maltese proofreading. Before embarking on this course, she received verbal assurance from officers in the Education Division that if she completed this course successfully, she would receive the “Qualification Allowance” given to other teachers in analogous situations. However, after she completed the course, she was informed that the relevant manual governing such allowances did not entitle her to this allowance.
Upon investigating the case, the Commissioner for Education noted that the Manual of Allowances was not strictly adhered to within the Education Division when the complainant started the proofreading course. Additionally, it was found that at least 175 other persons in a position analogous (and therefore not necessarily identical) to that of the complainant — those with an MQF Level 5 qualification (an undergraduate qualification) — were, and presumably still are, being paid the qualification allowance.
The Commissioner for Education concluded that the decision taken in 2020 to refuse “an MQF Level 5 qualification allowance [where the] applicant required a higher MQF level qualification” created a glaring improper discrimination vis-à-vis the complainant, who in any case had commenced her course before the blanket decision was taken by the Human Resources Directorate.
Despite the communication of an Interim Opinion on the 7th of December 2022, no satisfactory explanation was provided by the Ministry responsible for education as to why the discrimination, in this case, should not be deemed “improper”. The Final Opinion was conveyed to the Ministry on the 3rd of April, 2023. The Ombudsman and the Commissioner brought the case to the attention of the Prime Minister on 29 May 2023. As no action appears to have been taken, the Ombudsman and the Commissioner forwarded the report to the House of Representatives for its consideration.