16 March 2005

The Web

Malta’s first PPP runs into funding, staffing problems
By Kurt Sansone

It is not just public perception that the aggressive landscaping of soft areas along our road network has suddenly come to an end. Lack of funds are preventing the Environmental Landscapes Consortium, a public-private partnership, from going ahead with new landscaping projects, according to its chairman Peter Calamatta.
Speaking to The Malta Financial and Business Times, Calamatta says ELC only has funds to maintain the areas that already existed and those that were landscaped over the past year and a half.
“Unless government provides the necessary funds we cannot initiate new projects,” Calamatta says.
In 2003 around 350 civil servants employed with the Department of Agriculture were transferred to the newly founded consortium under private management.
The employees had to adapt to new working practices and although change has been possible Calamatta laments that around 100 employees could not be “motivated” or “trained” for different reasons, some genuine and others not.
“Half of these employees have either retired or have been boarded out, but it would be desirable for Government to take back those employees who have no interest to work productively,” Calamatta says.
He insists the attitude of these employees only helps to de-motivate other hard-working employees. “As a consequence we have to fork out more money in overtime to make up for the work that is left undone by the skiving few,” Calamatta argues.
The consortium chairman points out that in the past various government administrations used the Agriculture Department as a dumping ground for transferred employees. “It is obvious why some are not motivated to work in this area. But today’s landscaping techniques require a level of skill. We have managed to train people and changed certain work practices that became inculcated as worker rights over the years. Today, those whose only job in the past was driving a vehicle or sitting down pretending to be on watchman duty are now performing other jobs as well instead of whiling away the time waiting for their colleagues to finish the job,” Calamatta says.
Given the right people with the right incentives and adequate funding, Calamatta believes ELC can perform much better than it has until now. The consortium has plans to create a landscape grid on the same lines as that being proposed by government for the road network that is to form part of the trans-European network.
But the high flying plans risk remaining exactly what they are, plans, if the administration is unwilling to provide adequate funding to get more flowers growing alongside Malta’s road network.

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