“Last week marked a steady return to normality. Indeed, the past couple of months have been hard, but we have managed to pull through together as we now transition onto the next phase full of hope,” commented Anton Sevasta, Chief Executive Officer of the Identity Malta Agency.
Mr Sevasta gave an overview of changes and adaptations to important procedures handled by the agency in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In reality, no one was prepared for what the UN describes as the biggest test since World War II. We had no manual on how to charter these choppy waters, but what we did know is that we had to act fast and adapt quickly.
“Despite Government entities seeking to provide stability and consistency, they were compelled to transform themselves overnight, and Identity Malta was no exception,” he said.
Mr Sevasta highlighted how during COVID-19, together with Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship and Communities Alex Muscat, they devised a business contingency plan which was “primarily intended to protect the wellbeing of employees and safeguard public health, whilst continuing to provide the best possible service”.
“Above all, we wanted to strictly abide by the health authorities’ advice, even if it meant to quickly adapt to new work practices and change business models,” Mr Sevasta continued.
Such precautionary measures meant that 1,440 Maltese ID cards which were about to expire, were automatically extended till the end of June and expatriates could renew their single permit or apply to change their job online.
“As an Agency we are committed towards supporting our community and in response to the pandemic, we have introduced new procedures covering all aspects of life, from birth to death.
“As a matter of fact, one of the first decisions was to allow birth and death registrations-by-mail, with 350 births and 100 deaths being remotely registered from the safety and comfort of one’s home.
“Nonetheless, plans are still in place to allow online birth and death registrations and for the re-opening of Mater Dei’s office, which apart from customer convenience, these will lead to fewer walk-ins and shorter queuing-time,” he explained.
On a daily basis, Identity Malta touches people’s lives and the past months have been extremely hard for those couples who had to postpone their big day for their safety and the safety of others.
“Although it is a very tough call to make, especially when long months of planning and preparations are involved, it is the most reasonable thing to do in these exceptional times,” Mr Sevasta said.
In response, Identity Malta chose to waive its marriage registration fee to more than 210 couples (and counting) who had to defer their marriage to a later date because of the pandemic. It is the least thing we can do during these difficult times.
“Apart from doing our part on a community level, we felt the need to be there for our frontline workers. In our efforts to support our healthcare system, 480 healthcare professionals, including live-in carers, had their single permit automatically extended by a further three months.
“This was done by electronic means and without the need to visit our offices, thus, preventing the risk of spreading or contracting the virus. We truly value our frontliners’ contribution and that is why we wanted to ease the administrative burden so that they could carry on their vital work caring for patients.”
Evidently, these have been trying times and as “an Agency we have swiftly responded to better address public needs by bringing forward our plans.”
The recently launched online single permit platform and the other online initiatives taken are all part of Identity Malta’s digital drive.
In the post-COVID era, going online is necessary more than ever. All this adds up to a whole new way of doing business in the public sector. But ultimately, it is people and not just processes that bring about change in our quest to a new norm at the place of work. If it were not for Identity Malta’s staff perseverance and determination, these initiatives would have not materialised overnight.