Malta Chamber’s Call for a Digital Revolution
In a bold move to reshape the future of governance in Malta, the Malta Chamber has unveiled its pre-budget document, calling for a comprehensive digital transformation of government services. This transformation, they argue, is essential to combat the deeply ingrained culture of abuse of power and clientelism that has been plaguing the nation for years.
On a sunny Monday morning, the Malta Chamber presented its case, emphasizing the urgency of this transformation. They argued that systemic abuses of power are draining millions from public coffers that could otherwise be channeled into much-needed initiatives, from traffic management to utility infrastructure and waste management.
“The monies being squandered through such rackets could be better used to support those who really need help and to address issues which are leading to the country’s deterioration,” the Malta Chamber declared.
The gravity of the situation cannot be overstated. The longer these issues persist, the costlier they become to rectify. The chamber has pointed fingers at the lack of proper enforcement, investigation, and prosecution, as well as the failure to act on findings from bodies like the National Audit Office (NAO) and the Ombudsman. These shortcomings, they argue, cast a shadow on Malta’s governance.
The chamber urged the government to translate its electoral mandate into decisive action, calling for a zero-tolerance policy toward any form of abuse, especially when it’s facilitated by those in positions of political or administrative authority.
“The Malta Chamber believes that the politicians and public officials who make headlines for the wrong reasons are putting the entire political class and public service in disrepute,” the chamber stated, highlighting the adverse effects of such behavior on businesses and citizens alike.
Furthermore, the Malta Chamber expressed concern about practices that discourage people from engaging in productive employment. They argue that the allure of low-effort public sector jobs and fraudulent benefit claims destabilizes the labor market, particularly at a time when inflation is a pressing concern.
“At a time when everyone is concerned about persistent inflation, it is opportune to point out that such abusive practices ultimately have an inflationary effect on the whole economy,” the Malta Chamber warned. These practices also strain public spending, leading to increased government debt and pressure on interest rates.
In light of these challenges, the Malta Chamber called on politicians and policymakers to curb clientelism, consider the consequences of their actions, and recognize their pivotal role in shaping public expectations and choices in terms of employment, consumption, savings, and investment. They stressed the importance of proactive policymaking, which hinges on understanding the intricate connections between these factors and public perceptions of corruption, enforcement, and fairness.
Citing the latest Eurobarometer poll, the Malta Chamber pointed out that a staggering 92% of respondents perceive corruption as widespread in the country, marking a 13% increase compared to the previous year. This perception, they argue, is mirrored in the business community, with 76% of respondents from Malta businesses sharing the view that corruption is pervasive, surpassing the EU27 average of 65%.
“Against this bleak background, The Malta Chamber will keep advocating for high ethical standards in public life and working to improve our country’s reputation on an international level,” the chamber affirmed. They highlighted their previous publication, ‘A Strong Transparency, Accountability, and Ethical Governance Framework for Members of Parliament,’ as evidence of their commitment to fostering a more transparent and accountable political landscape.
In their Pre-Budget 2024 proposals, the Malta Chamber has laid out a comprehensive roadmap for the digital transformation of government services and governance reform. Here are their key recommendations:
Full Digitalization of Government Services: Implement a real-time digital system that accepts applications requiring approvals from various professionals and entities. This system should rely on digital identity verification to eliminate the possibility of forged documents.
Regular Staff Rotation: Rotate personnel involved in the processing of sensitive applications regularly to reduce the risk of tampering with systems and enhance the detection of any such attempts.
Automation of Customer Care and Verification: Automate various customer care and verification processes to enhance efficiency, transparency, and consistency in government services.
Transparent Records and Public Procurement Reform: Maintain accurate records of public service provision and reform the public procurement processes to ensure a level playing field.
Separation of Political and Administrative Responsibility: Clearly demarcate political responsibility at the ministerial level from administrative and executive responsibilities within the civil service. For instance, the decision to privatize public services should remain a political decision, while selecting contractors should fall under executive competence.
Enhanced Scrutiny of Public Contracts: Allow the National Audit Office to scrutinize all public contracts above a certain value without requiring a formal request. Additionally, prohibit the use of side letters that significantly modify key provisions of agreements, such as financial risks.
Limitation on Positions of Trust: Cap the number of individuals holding positions of trust and restrict such positions to those of high political sensitivity or those carrying specific security risks. Ensure full disclosure of compensation and benefits for individuals in these positions, subject to independent audits against stipulated criteria.
The Malta Chamber’s proposals present a comprehensive vision for a transformed Malta, one where transparency, accountability, and ethical behavior in governance take center stage. With the weight of public opinion behind them, the chamber’s call for change may just be the catalyst needed to bring about a new era of governance in Malta.
What is clientelism, and why is it a concern in Malta’s governance?
Clientelism refers to a system where political leaders or parties provide benefits, favors, or services to individuals or groups in exchange for their political support or loyalty. In Malta, it has been a concern because it can lead to abuses of power, unequal distribution of resources, and corruption. The Malta Chamber is advocating for reforms to combat clientelism and promote fairness and transparency.
How does the digitalization of government services address issues of abuse and clientelism?
Digitalization of government services can reduce opportunities for abuse and clientelism by creating a transparent and efficient system. Digital systems can track applications and approvals in real-time, eliminating the possibility of forged documents and reducing the risk of tampering with sensitive processes.
Why is the perception of corruption a significant issue for Malta, and what are its implications?
The perception of corruption can damage a country’s reputation and hinder economic growth. In Malta, a high percentage of respondents in surveys perceive corruption as widespread. This perception can deter foreign investment, erode public trust, and affect economic stability, making it a pressing issue that needs to be addressed.
How do practices that discourage productive employment affect Malta’s economy?
Practices that discourage productive employment, such as low-effort public sector jobs and fraudulent benefit claims, can destabilize the labor market. They can lead to inflationary pressures, increased public spending, and higher government debt, which can, in turn, affect interest rates and the overall cost of funding for everyone.
What is the significance of separating political and administrative responsibilities in governance?
Separating political and administrative responsibilities is crucial to ensure that decisions are made transparently and without undue influence. It allows for a clear distinction between political decision-making (e.g., policy formulation) and administrative execution (e.g., selecting contractors), promoting accountability and reducing the potential for corruption or abuse of power.
September 22, 2023
September 22, 2023
September 22, 2023