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GGCA weighs in on civil servant media appearances

The Gibraltar General and Clerical Association (GGCA) Executive Committee has acknowledged an ambiguity on the role of government ministers and senior civil servants for media appearances.

The GGCA noted heads of department need to feel empowered to run their departments free from ministerial interference, but felt that a clear demarcation of political decision making and administrative implementation of such decisions would be “very welcome”.

“This would protect civil servants from being perceived negatively by the general public on account of political decisions, especially given that they are unable to correct any mistaken assumptions, as they are bound by the provisions of the Official Secrets Act,” the GGCA said in a press statement.

“An example of this is the recent commentary on social media relating to the continued closure of public counters, with members of the public often making negative comments about civil servants, possibly unaware that the decision to open or close public counters is a political decision, not an administrative one.”

“In this instance, we feel that the criticism is unmerited, given that the civil service has worked consistently throughout the pandemic, whilst shouldering the burden of 85 vacancies within the Administrative Assistant and Administrative Officer grades.”

“It is evident that, for a provision of services that meets the requirements of the general public, these vacancies must be filled.”

The GGCA added many civil servants have knowledge and expertise on professional and technical matters, and that they can contribute enormously to public life.

“It is important to ensure that there is no derogation of the principle of ministerial responsibility,” the Association said.

“However, this issue does highlight the fact that there is a certain ambiguity on the role and responsibility of government ministers viz a viz those of the Chief Secretary and senior civil servants.”

The Association said the debate on media appearances has created an opportunity to discuss these matters and achieve greater clarity and consistency for the benefit of all concerned.

“Indeed, it is essential to avoid situations where government ministers adopt managerial functions within government departments, as they need time and energy to focus on the creation of government policy,” the GGCA said.

“Equally, Heads of Department need to be sufficiently empowered to run their departments - in accordance with government policy, but free from ministerial interference.”

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