03 Oct 2019
Two persons during interview

The Public Administration Act (chapter 595 of the laws of Malta) includes a code of ethics for public employees. This code states among other things that public employees who deal with private firms as part of their official duties can be prevented from accepting jobs with those firms after resigning from public employment.

According to paragraph 12 of the code, as well as article 4 of the Act itself, a public employee whose work involves regulating or inspecting private firms can be required to sign an undertaking to the effect that, for a period of two years after resigning from public employment, he or she will not take up employment with any of those firms. This two-year period is known as the cooling off period. It is intended to prevent private firms from influencing public employees by offering them jobs in return for favourable treatment.

A public employee who is bound by such an undertaking can be fined three years’ pay if he or she breaches it. This fine would be recoverable as damages through civil court proceedings.

The term “revolving doors” is used to describe cases in which public officials deal with a private firm on behalf of the state one day and take up employment with the same firm the next day. The revolving doors phenomenon has raised concerns in various countries, resulting in action being taken to curb it.

The relevant provisions of the Public Administration Act and the code of ethics came into force on 27 September 2019.

By virtue of the Standards in Public Life Act, persons of trust – that is to say persons who serve in an advisory, consultative or executive capacity within a minister’s secretariat – are also bound by the code of ethics in the Public Administration Act. The paragraph in the code about revolving doors can therefore be applied to them if they are dealing with private firms in an official capacity.

Ministers fall under a different code of ethics that forms part of the Standards in Public Life Act. This code does not include provisions about revolving doors. However, the Office of the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life is drawing up proposals to incorporate such provisions as part of a review of the ministerial code.