While commending the way public officers have kept the country going during the pandemic through flexibility, will, and a sense of duty, Principal Permanent Secretary Mario Cutajar stressed the need to create new balances between what the Public Service needs and what its employees need. This will be achieved through remote working, which will bring about a radical change in how the system works, with entire departments being able to leave their offices and work elsewhere. This change, which will require a greater investment in technology and further training, will feature in a new policy in the coming weeks.
Mr Cutajar was speaking at a conference held as part of Public Service Week 2021. The main topic discussed during the conference was people, who are at the centre of the ongoing strengthening process within the Public Service. He said that people are at the core of the new Public Service strategy for the next five years — a strategy that is the first of its kind and that brings together the three elements that lead the Public Service to deliver a service of excellence. People will have every opportunity to contribute to this strategy. In fact, working groups have already been set up, and they have drawn up the main principles and ultimate goals of the strategy.
Mr Cutajar said that public officers are well aware of the renewal that has taken place in recent years within the Public Service. It is also clear that they have faith in current structures and feel that they are an integral part of the Public Service. In fact, a study carried out by three academics on all the measures put in place throughout this renewal process shows that 77% of government employees believe that the Public Service is now better, and 64.5% believe that their quality of life has improved when compared to 2013. 87.3% are aware of the renewal process and of the fact that services are now available online, and 84.6% have used them.
Mr Cutajar added that when speaking of people, we are also referring to the customers who make use of our services. This is the rationale behind the People 360 concept. There is a complete connection between service providers and the people receiving the service. You cannot have bad systems in place to provide a service and at the same time expect to have satisfied customers. There must therefore be a clear link with service providers on the one hand and customers on the other.
The Principal Permanent Secretary stressed that the accomplishments of recent years were not only in the provision of better and more accessible service but also in relation to government employees themselves. There are currently 130 collective agreements in place, 43 of which are at the stage of negotiations at different levels. For the first time, the disciplinary bodies can join a union and also improve their conditions. For the first time, a collective agreement was signed for all public officers covering a considerable period of time, providing them with reassurance. Women have found their rightful place in top decision-making positions, so much so that today 46% of senior public officers are women. This figure is three times higher than in 2012.