Ombudsman Joe Sammut says things look positive at the Armed Forces of Malta under the helm of its new commander, Brigadier Carmel Vassallo.
Asked for his reaction to the AFM commander’s agreement with his recommendations for an overhaul to the controversial promotions procedure, a hopeful Mr Sammut said: “It seems there has been a change of heart in favour of what I had said, and an acknowledgement that the next promotions exercise will again give rise to complaints.
“It’s not his fault. Brigadier Montanaro (Brig. Vassallo’s predecessor) didn’t even bother replying to my reports, he was always procrastinating. I know Brigadier Vassallo is a serious man; things look positive and hopefully he’ll implement the recommendations.”
Brig. Vassallo admitted in an interview in MaltaToday last Sunday that the Ombudsman’s recommendations – which fell on deaf ears for the last eight years – were actually right.
Irregular promotions at the AFM earned it the track record as the topmost government entity to generate complaints from its staff to the Ombudsman’s office. The last promotions exercise carried out in 2001 involved no less than 379 promotions, generating 70 complaints to the Ombudsman – that is around 20 per cent of the AFM’s staff complement.
Last year, an exasperated Ombudsman said the AFM was “in a hell of a mess” and warned that with the promotions already back-dated by two years, the upcoming promotions exercise was set to generate yet another flood of complaints.
“Yes I want to arrange this situation, it’s one of the first issues I want to address,” he said when asked whether he would take the Ombudsman’s recommendations on board.
Brig. Vassallo’s statements mark a shift from the defensive attitude adopted by his predecessor, Brig. Rupert Montanaro, who repeatedly refused to heed the recommendations of Ombudsman in three successive mass promotions exercises claiming they were impossible to implement.
Asked whether he believed there could have been political pressure from the Office of the Prime Minister on Brigadier Montanaro to ignore his recommendations, Mr Sammut replied: “Maybe there was some pressure but he was inefficient.”