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News • February 22 2004

New appointment shrouded in silence

Karl Schembri

Joseph R Grima’s new appointment to Principal Permanent Secretary remains shrouded in silence, with both the Prime Minister and Mr Grima himself failing to answer questions about the controversial appointment.
Questions sent by MaltaToday to the Office of the Prime Minister last Wednesday remained unanswered. MaltaToday asked the Prime Minister how he could appoint Mr Grima to a position which does not exist in the Public Service Act, and why he did not wait until the new legislation was enacted.
MaltaToday also asked what salary, allowances and fringe benefits were offered Mr Grima’s for his new post, and how and why he was selected in the first place. Another question which remained unanswered was whether Dr Fenech Adami agreed it would have been fairer on his successor to choose the Principal Permanent Secretary, given that he has already stated his intention to resign.
Similarly, Mr Grima did not answer calls made to his office this week. MaltaToday asked Grima, through his public relations officer and secretary, whether he was comfortable accepting a position that was not yet legally set up, but no answers were forthcoming.
Last Monday, the Department of Information announced that Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami had appointed Mr Grima as Principal Permanent Secretary – a post which does not even exist in the public service.
The appointment was backdated to 5 February and the post still has to be officially created through the upcoming Public Service Act, as proposed in the White Paper published last October.
The Opposition immediately hit out at Mr Grima’s appointment, with Labour MP Helena Dalli saying the government was turning parliament into “a mere rubber stamp,” implementing laws that have not yet been discussed in the House.
Mr Grima, 64, joined the public service in 1964. In 1991 he was appointed Cabinet Secretary and in 1995 he became Permanent Secretary and Head of the Public Service.
In August 1998, Labour Prime Minister Alfred Sant removed Grima from office against a golden handshake of Lm40,000. Dr Sant told MaltaToday that he “could not trust” Mr Grima back then, particularly because of “the way he used to operate and assess other permanent secretaries.”
Mr Grima was back within a month after the September general election, which saw Dr Fenech Adami re-elected Prime Minister. He was re-appointed permanent secretary, and kept the Lm40,000.
The DOI said that apart from being principal permanent secretary, Mr Grima was also retaining his post as permanent secretary although the government intended to separate the two positions “in the near future.”

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