The Public Service is regulated primarily by the Constitution and the Public Administration Act. Also of importance are the regulations of the Public Service Commission. Other regulatory instruments governing the Public Service are the directives issued by the Principal Permanent Secretary under the Public Administration Act, and the Public Service Management Code.

The Constitution

The Constitution includes various provisions dealing with the Public Service. Article 124 defines the Public Service as the service of the Government of Malta in a civil capacity. Article 124 excludes various posts from this definition, notably those of ministers and members of Parliament and the membership of boards or commissions established by law. The holders of such appointments are not, therefore, considered Public Service employees.

Article 124 defines a “public office” as an office of emolument, or salaried post, within the Public Service, and a “public officer” as a person appointed to such an office.

Chapter X of the Constitution deals with appointments and discipline in the Public Service. In particular, this chapter establishes the Public Service Commission – an independent body responsible for appointments and discipline in the Public Service. The role of the Commission is to ensure that appointments are free from discrimination and that discipline is fair.

Article 92 of the Constitution, which deals with the appointment of Permanent Secretaries and heads of Government departments, is also worth noting.

The Public Administration Act

The current Public Administration Act (chapter 595 of the laws of Malta) was enacted into law in 2019. This Act repealed and superseded an earlier Public Administration Act (chapter 497) which had been enacted in 2009.

The Act of 2019 sets out the values of public administration. It also establishes a code of ethics which applies not only to Public Service employees but also to the employees of entities in the wider public sector. The Act makes it clear that whoever acts in breach of the values or the code of ethics may face disciplinary proceedings.

The Act also includes provisions for revolving doors and, for the first time, a list of vulnerable positions has been included as a new schedule to further reinforce good governance within the public administration.

The Act defines ministries and departments in organisational terms and specifies how new ministries and departments can be created. This law also deals with the leadership of the Public Service. The Act creates the position of Principal Permanent Secretary (Segretarju Permanenti Ewlieni). The holder of this position is required to provide leadership to the Public Service and to take measures to improve the performance of the Service. The Principal Permanent Secretary has various powers under the Act, notably to issue directives and guidelines on matters relating to the organisation and management of the Service. The Act also sets out the responsibilities of Permanent Secretaries and heads of department.

The Public Administration Act does not only cover the Public Service. It also includes provisions regulating the wider public sector. The Act provides for the creation of “Government agencies” – bodies which are subject to direction by the Permanent Secretary in each ministry, but which are not part of the Public Service. The Act also regulates other Government entities and places such entities under the supervision of Permanent Secretaries too, with a view to improving coordination within public administration.

The regulations of the Public Service Commission

Article 121 of the Constitution empowers the Public Service Commission to issue regulations with the consent of the Prime Minister. There are three sets of such regulations: the Public Service Commission General Regulations, which govern the Commission’s internal proceedings; the Public Service Commission Appointments Regulations, which govern appointments in the Public Service; and the Disciplinary Procedure in the Public Service Commission Regulations, which regulate discipline in the Public Service.

These laws can be downloaded from here:

Directives issued by the Principal Permanent Secretary under the Public Administration Act

The Public Administration Act empowers the Principal Permanent Secretary to issue directives and guidelines. A directive is binding, and it may also incorporate guidelines which are not binding in themselves but which are intended to assist public employees in interpreting and abiding by the directive.

Several directives have been issued under the Act. Among others, Directive 4 sets out service quality standards to be followed by Government organisations. Directive 8 sets out timeframes within which requests by Public Service employees on matters concerning themselves (such as requests for leave) have to be answered, and states that if the employee does not receive a reply within the prescribed period, his or her request is automatically granted.