The wrong perception

The Public Service can no longer remain the department of bureaucracy or papers; it must find quicker solutions, offer quicker services and must aim for total accessibility

By Clive Farrugia

The Public Service touches every aspect of our society, with services rendered at every stage of our life. To manage to do so, it employs thousands of employees. Being the largest employer on the island brought with it an unfavourable perception that public officers do not work hard like their counterparts in the private sector. I was one of those who thought this way, and I can now confirm how deeply wrong I was.

The identity of the Public Service is yet largely unknown. One can argue that the Public Service is found in every corner of our society and it is not only there to offer a service but to make sure that the Public Administration runs smoothly across our Government. We have the role to safeguard our citizens, but in parallel we also need to drive forward projects and initiatives led by the Government. This practice has been going on since the start of the Public Service. However, the question remains, what are we here for?

We want to have a modernised Public Service where all the citizens are catered through the use of the most efficient tools to accommodate their needs and requests. We can no longer remain the department of bureaucracy or papers. We have to challenge ourselves to find quicker solutions, to offer quicker services and we must aim for total accessibility. This does pose a challenge; that of changing the people’s perception about the Public Service.

We all know that we are living in a technological era which itself brings an urge of immediate solutions and answers and this drives us to perform internal research on our performance and how we need to modernise our structures. In fact, a digitalisation committee was setup with the aim of providing better technological solutions. However, technology is not our only focus. It is first and foremost about mentality. We need to provide our citizens logical, friendly, fast, and paperless solutions.

Our track record shows that we are among the best in Europe when it comes to eGovernment and in fact we have been placing 1st for a number of years, as certified by the EU Commission eGovernment Benchmark. We will continue building on the good the Public Service has made but now we will also lead by example. We cannot preach about adopting paperless systems when internally we have systems that are still based on paper, and thus we will introduce a new online system to directly book vacation leave for our 35k users. We cannot preach about electric vehicles when we still drive fuel cars and hence, as from the 1st of January all headship positions in the Public Service will no longer have the option to buy fuel-run cars. These are just the first steps towards a better Public Service. 

The Public Service needs to have a better interaction with its clients, that is with all the Maltese citizens. We are investing in better digital channels to provide better awareness on what we are doing. In the last five months, we managed to promote an array of campaigns, aimed at the elderly and youths, and to educate and raise awareness about the environment, about legal aid, sports, wellbeing and much more. We also managed to visit several Government departments and we will continue to visit many more. Moreover, we are using this space as part of several new collaborations that we are currently driving forward. We also appear on local TV stations promoting what would be going on at that moment, but most importantly we are there, present, listening to the public. 

Such actions are not taken for the sake of publicity, but to give a voice to those teachers that sacrifice their career for a better education, to those nurses and doctors that keep our health system in place, to those police officers who protect us every day, to those office workers who administer key initiatives, to those maintenance and cleaning workers who make our environment a better one, to all those public employers who are forgotten and provide valuable work towards each one of us.

Yes, we need to change your perception about what we do. Yes, we want to keep pushing forward for a better Public Service. Yes, we are ready to listen and act for a modern Public Service. 

Clive Farrugia is Head of Secretariat within the Office of the Principal Permanent Secretary