Ir-reputazzjoni tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar

Hu tad-daħq li iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa skoprejna illi l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar hi mħassba dwar li possibilment saret ħafna ħsara lir-reputazzjoni tagħha.

Din kienet aħbar, għax sal-lum, l-impressjoni ġenerali ta’ bosta minna kienet li l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar tiġi taqa’ u tqum mir-reputazzjoni tagħha.

F’numru ta’ protesti u kontro-protesti ppreżentati l-Qorti f’dawn il-ġranet, residenti ta’ Pembroke talbu d-danni mingħand l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar f’konnessjoni mal-mod kif din imxiet fil-konfront tagħhom dwar il-proġett tad-dB. Il-Grupp dB, min-naħa l-oħra lagħabha tal-vittma meta bi qdusija artifiċjali akkuża lill-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar li ma għamlet xejn dwar il-kunflitt ta’ interess ovvju ta’ wieħed mill-membri tal-Bord tal-istess Awtorità – l-aġent tal-propjetà. B’riżultat ta’ dan, qalet li sofriet danni sostanzjali meta l-permess ta’ żvilupp dwar l-iżvilupp massiċċ fil–Bajja ta’ San Ġorg tħassar mill-Qorti.

Fit-tweġiba tagħha, l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar akkużat lill-Grupp dB li kien hu stess li ħoloq il-kunflitt ta’ interess li dwaru kien qed jilmenta. Dan billi għamel użu mis-servizzi ta’ aġent tal-propjetà li kien ukoll membru tal-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar. L-Awtorità kompliet temfasizza li hi ma kelliex idea dwar, u ma kienitx taf illi l-propjetà tad-dB kienet diġà fuq is-suq qabel ma biss il-kaz tela’ quddiem il-Bord għall-approvazzjoni, sintendi bil-vot favorevoli tal-aġent tal-propjetà membru tal-Bord.

L-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar kompliet tgħid li l-Grupp dB, bħala riżultat tal-mod kif opera ikkawża ħafna ħsara lir-reputazzjoni tagħha. Din kienet sorpriża, għax ħafna ma kellhom l-ebda idea li l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar kella xi reputazzjoni x’tipproteġi!

L-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar taf li kull membru tal-Bord tagħha, hekk kif jinħatar, jeħtieġ li jimla formula li fiha jagħti informazzjoni dwar l-interessi tiegħu jew tagħha. Il-membru tal-Bord li qed nitkellmu dwaru, l-aġent tal-propjetà Matthew Pace, diġa iddikjara pubblikament li hu mexa mal-proċeduri stabiliti, li jfisser illi f’din il-formola huwa iddikjara l-interess tiegħu fl-aġenzija tal-propjetà.

Jekk dan hu minnu, x’għamlet l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar hekk kif irrealizzat li wieħed mill-membri l-ġodda tagħha kellu interess f’aġenzija tal-propjetà? Kieku jkollna tweġiba onesta għal din il-mistoqsija bla ebda dubju jkollna idea tajba dwar kif l- Awtorità tal-Ippjanar tħares “ir-reputazzjoni” tagħha. Imma, safejn naf jien, ma għamlet xejn: jew minħabba li m’għandha l-ebda reputazzjoni x’tipproteġi, inkella minħabba li tiġi taqa’ u tqum!

Apparti dan kollu, waqt il-laqgħat tal-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar, kull membru tal-Bord għandu l-obbligu li kull meta l-interessi tiegħu jew tagħha jkunu f’kunflitt mar-responsabbiltajiet bħala membru tal-Bord jiġbed l-attenzjoni għal dan billi jagħmel dikjarazzjoni f’dan is-sens waqt il-laqgħa. Wara li jkun għamel dikjarazzjoni ta’ din ix-xorta, imbagħad, il-membru tal-Bord għandu l-obbligu li jimxi skond kif jipprovdi l-artiklu 13 tal-Att dwar l-Ippjanar tal-Iżvilupp u ma jipparteċipax fil-laqgħa jew laqgħat li jista’ jkollhom x’jaqsmu mal-interessi tiegħu. Minn dak li hu magħruf, dawn it-tip ta’ ċirkustanzi huma rari waqt il-laqgħat tal-Bord tal- Awtorità tal-Ippjanar.

L-interess ta’ dan l-aġent tal-propjetà fil-proġett tad-dB illum huma magħrufa. Ikun interessanti, imma, dwar kemm kien hemm iktar propjetajiet li kienu fuq il-kotba tal-aġenzija tiegħu li kienu ukoll suġġett tal-aġenda li hu kellu sehem biex jiddeċiedi dwarha! Din hi informazzjoni li s’issa l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar ma għamlitx pubblika, għax li kieku kellha tagħmel dan bis-serjetà, malajr inkunu nafu kif l-Awtorità ndukrat ir-reputazzjoni tagħha tul is-snin!

Fil-fehma tiegħi, l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar hi awtorità amorali, fejn il-prinċipji huma irrelevanti. Għax fl-aħħar mill-aħħar, l-unika ħaġa importanti għall-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar hu li ma tkunx ostaklu għal min irid idawwar lira!

ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 4 t’Awwissu 2019

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The Planning Authority and its “reputation”

It is quite hilarious to discover that the Planning Authority is worried about possible damage to its reputation! This is news, because, to date the general impression that most of us have is that the Planning Authority does not give a f..k about its reputation.

In a spate of protests and counter-protests presented in Court over the past days, Pembroke residents have requested the payment of damages from the Planning Authority over its handling of the dB project. The dB Group, on the other hand, has sanctimoniously accused the Planning Authority of not acting on the obvious conflict of interest of one of its Board Members – the estate agent – thereby causing it damage as a result of the annulment by the Court of the development permit for the St. George’s Bay City Centre project.

Not to be outdone, in its reply the Planning Authority has accused the dB Group of giving rise to the very conflict-of-interest subject of its complaint. This, it argued, was carried out by making use of the services of an estate agent who was simultaneously a member of the Planning Authority Board. The PA further emphasised that it was not aware that the dB property was on the market even before the matter was decided upon with the estate agent PA Board member voting in favour: obviously!

The Planning Authority also pointed out that, as a result of the way it acted throughout, the dB Group has caused considerable damage to its reputation.

Really? I was not aware that the Planning Authority had any reputation worth preserving!

Now the Planning Authority is aware that each and every member of its Board would, upon being appointed, have submitted a detailed form listing his/her interests. The member in question, the estate agent Matthew Pace, has already declared in public that he has followed all applicable procedures which means that, among other things, he has declared an interest in an estate agency.

If this is correct, what did the Planning Authority do when it realised that one of its new members had an interest in an estate agency? Having an honest answer to this query would throw considerable light as to how the Planning Authority guarded its “reputation”. To my knowledge it did nothing, either because it has no reputation to protect or else because it was not bothered!

In addition, during meetings of the Planning Authority Board, every member of the Board is duty bound to point out instances where his/her private interests conflict with his/her responsibilities as a Board Member. After making a full disclosure of his/her interest the Board Member is obliged – in terms of article 13 of the Development Planning Act – to refrain from participating in the meeting or meetings which could have a bearing on his/her interest. From what is known, such disclosures are a very rare occurrence at PA Board meetings.

The estate agent’s interest in the dB project is now well-known. It would be interesting to know how many other properties on the estate agent’s books were also items on the agenda he had a role in deciding. This is a question that the PA has not answered yet. Maybe an answer could give a significant boost to its reputation!

In my books the Planning Authority is an amoral authority, where principles are irrelevant. At the end of the day, what counts is not being an obstacle to making hay, while the sun shines!

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday : 4 August 2019

Marlene favur it-trasparenza, il-Partit Laburista kontra

marlene.iNews 011215

 

Il-bieraħ Marlene Farrugia ressqet emenda oħra ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika għall-abbozz ta’ Liġi dwar l-Ippjanar u l-Iżvilupp li fil-present qed jiddiskuti l-Parlament.

L-emenda kienet biex iċ-Chairperson Eżekuttiv li jinnomina l-Gvern ikun eżaminat mill-Kumitat Parlamentari tal-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar qabel ma ssir il-ħatra.

Hu tajjeb li l-Gvern ressaq emenda (li ġiet approvat) biex iċ-Chairperson Eżekuttiv ma jkunx jista’ jitkeċċa mill-Gvern mingħajr ma jkun hemm minn qabel l-approvazzjoni tal-Parlament. Kien ikun ferm aħjar imma, kieku l-Parlament ikun jista’ jassigura ruħu li dan iċ-Chairperson Eżekuttiv ikun kompententi, qabel ma dan fil-fatt jinħatar.

Il-Gvern immexxi mill-Partit Laburista ma qabilx ma dan. Ivvota kontra għax huwa kontra t-trasparenza.

 

Il-periklu ta’ Marlene Farrugia

Marlene Farrugia3

Il-ġimgħa l-oħra Marlene Farrugia ppreżentat l-ewwel emendi ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika għal-liġi l-ġdida tal-Ippjanar.

L-ewwel emenda li ppreżentat Marlene ġiet deskritta minn Michael Falzon (is-Segretarju Parlamentari) bħala emenda perikoluża.

Marlene spjegat l-iskop tal-emenda. Fisssret kif. fil-waqt li l-artiklu 3 tal-liġi jsemmi  ħafna prinċipji sbieħ, imbagħad l-artiklu 4 tal-istess liġi jgħid li ħadd ma jista’ jmur il-Qorti biex jassigura li l-Gvern ikun obbligat li jimxi mal-prinċipji fil-liġi. Għax dawk il-prinċipji għandhom iservu biss ta’ gwida għall-Gvern. Xejn iktar.

Periklu? Daz-zgur. Imma tafu x’kien il-periklu? Li l-emenda kienet torbot idejn il-Gvern b’mod li ma jkunx jista’ jagħmel li jrid.

L-emenda m’għaddietx għax il-Gvern jibża’ li jkollu idejh marbutin u b’hekk ikollu l-obbligu li jimxi sewwa!

Marlene tippreżenta l-emendi ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika fil-Parlament

Marlene Farrugia3

Iktar kmieni illum fil-Parlament bdiet id-diskussjoni dwar il-liġi l-ġdida ta’ l-Ippjanar. Kien pjaċir għalina ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika li niddiskutu l-abbozz ta’ liġi mal-Membru Parlamentari indipendenti Marlene Farrugia li kienet lesta li tippreżenta l-emendi ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika fil-Parlament.

L-emendi li ġew imfasslini minni għan-nom ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika huma diversi. Illum bdew jiġu diskussi.

L-ewwel emenda li ġiet diskussa kienet dik dwar il-prinċipji li għandhom jiggwidaw lill Gvern fl-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art, biex itejjeb il-kwalità tal-ħajja għall-benefiċċju tal-ġenerazzjonijiet preżenti u futuri. Fil-waqt li fl-artiklu 3 tal-liġi proposta hemm lista twila ta’ dawn il-prinċipji, fl-artiklu ta’ wara, l-artiklu 4 hemm dikjarazzjoni li ma tistax tmur il-Qorti biex meta l-Gvern jiżbalja iġġibu għall-ordni.

L-ewwel emenda li ressqet Marlene għan-nom ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika kienet biex dan ma jsirx, Biex ikun possibli li jekk il-Gvern ma jimxix mal-prinċipji fil-liġi tkun tista’ tmur il-Qorti biex tiġbidlu widnejh.

L-emenda ma ġietx approvata, imma kien hemm diskussjoni li ħadet madwar siegħa mill-ħin tal-Parlament  li fiha ġew spjegati b‘mod ċar l-argumenti. Ir-realtà hi li l-Gvern ma jridx li jintrabat.

Il-Gvern iċċaqlaq ……….. għax sab l-iebes

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Il-mod kif il-Gvern ħa id-deċiżjoni dwar l-Università Amerikana juri biċ-ċar li m’għandux idea tal-obbligi ambjentali tiegħu. Għax kieku kellu l-iċken idea kien jimxi b’mod differenti. Il-konsultazzjoni neċessarja kien jagħmilha qabel ma jiddeċiedi u mhux wara li għaffiġha.

Id-deċiżjoni oriġinali kienet ħażina. Bid-deċiżjoni reveduta li tħabbret il-bieraħ l-Gvern ġabar ftit ġieħu.

Ir-reviżjoni saret biss u esklussivament minħabba li s-soċjetà ċivili fetħet ħalqha.

M’huwiex possibli li tikkonkludi minn każ wieħed jekk dan ifissirx li l-Gvern immexxi minn Joseph Muscat huwiex ser jibda jagħti każ ta’ x’jaħseb il-lobby ambjentali. Dan inkunu nistgħu nikkonkluduh wara li jkollna xi żewġ każijiet oħra.

Irridu naraw per eżempju dwar kemm il-Gvern ser jagħti każ tal-proposti tal-lobby ambjentali dwar il-liġijiet preżentement pendenti quddiem il-Parlament. Irridu ukoll naraw xi proposti ser isiru meta fix-xhur li ġejjin ikunu ippubblikati l-abbozzi ta’ pjani lokali.

Jiena naħseb li l-Gvern kontinwament ser jipprova jevita l-obbligi ambjentali tiegħu. Jekk isib resistenza jaġġusta l-posizzjoni tiegħu skond ir-resistenza li jsib.

Għalhekk hu importanti li s-soċjetà ċivili tibqa’ viġilanti għax ser niffaċċjaw battalja wara l-oħra. Min jaqta’ nifsu l-ewwel jitlef.

Ippubblikat fuq l-Illum il-Ħadd 23 t’Awwissu 2015

 

Sound governance protects the environment

 

green hands

Demerger will cause institutional fragmentation.

The state’s duties are not enforceable in a Court of Law.

 

 

Protection of the environment is not achieved in proportion to the number of authorities established to deal with the environment, resources and land use planning. In fact, subject to sound governance, the number of established authorities is irrelevant.

The government has, through its election manifesto, created a storm in a teacup, raising expectations that the demerger of MEPA would result in a government locked into a green commitment. The Opposition, on the other hand, has spoken of a doomsday scenario which will be triggered by the proposed demerger.

Both are wrong as the path to a green commitment requires a political will that is not easily detectable in the House of Representatives as presently composed. The Labour government and the Nationalist Opposition have entered into other commitments intended to bolster the building development industry. Labour is currently moving along that path, whilst the Nationalists did it throughout their 26 years in government.

As a nation, we are still reeling from the devastating actions of the PN-led government which caused considerable environmental damage. Former Environment Minister Mario de Marco has recently been on record as stating that maybe too much has been sacrificed in the pursuit of economic growth. This is not simply a revival of the past, it is an exercise in trying to understand past PN issues of environmental governance that contradict all the sweet green talk of Simon Busuttil.

When the 2005 census indicated the existence of over 53,000 vacant or under-utilised residential properties, the PN-led government increased the uptake of land for development through the rationalisation exercise. It addition, it simultaneously increased the permissible height in several areas. In a number of instances, this increased from 2 to five floors. It also facilitated the construction of penthouses. This has led to an increase (as of 2011) in the number of  vacant and under-utilised residential properties to 72,000 units.

The proposed demerger of MEPA will neither address nor reverse this mess which is the PN’s environmental legacy to the nation.

Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party – is not in agreement with the MEPA demerger proposed by government due to the resulting institutional fragmentation. As a result, human and financial resources will be spread thin over two authorities, thereby weakening effective environmental governance. As a small country, we actually require defragmentation, as this reinforces effective environmental stewardship.

Earlier this week, I and AD’s General Secretary Ralph Cassar had a meeting with Environment Minister Leo Brincat during which we discussed AD’s views in relation to the Environment Protection Act currently pending on Parliament’s agenda.

AD noted that whilst the proposed Environment Protection administrative structures do not contain any parliamentary representation, this has been retained in the land use planning structures. In fact, in paragraph 63(2)(d) of the Development Planning Act 2015, it is provided that two MPs will sit on the Planning Board.

AD does not consider it necessary for Parliament to be present in the planning decision-taking structures. It serves no purpose to have MPs involving themselves in decisions as to which individual development permit is approved or rejected. Alternattiva Demokratika suggested to Minister Brincat that MPs have no direct role to play in operational matters regarding land use planning. It would be more appropriate if Parliament’s Standing Committee on the Environment and Development Planning is given wider powers to monitor both the Planning Authority as well as the authority dealing with the environment and resources. This would entail the availability of financial and human resources so through its Standing Committee, Parliament would be in a better position to identify, and consequently nip in the bud any irregularities or inconsistencies.

Both the Development Planning Act as well as the Environment Protection Act list the duties and principles which the state should observe to ensure “a comprehensive sustainable land use planning system” and “to protect the environment”.   However, after going into detail to explain such duties, the legislation before Parliament then proceeds to state that these “are not enforceable in a Court of Law”. This is specified in Article 4 of the Development Planning Act and in Article 5 of the Environment Protection Act.

One should state that there are similar provisions in present legislation. It is, however, high time that such provisions are removed so that it will be possible for Maltese citizens to seek redress against the state if it attempts to circumvent its duties and abdicate its responsibilities.

Last April, following a legal challenge by the environmental NGO Client Earth, the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court  squashed Her Majesty’s government’s ineffective plans to reduce illegal levels of air pollution in Britain and ordered it to deliver new ones by the end of 2015.

Similarly,  last June Courts in Holland ordered the Dutch Government to reduce its carbon emissions by at least 25 per cent within 5 years in what is being termed as the world’s first climate liability suit.

Maltese citizens deserve no less. It would therefore be appropriate if the above mentioned provisions of the Development Planning Act and the Environment Protection Act are enforceable in a Court of Law.

Another proposal made by Alternattiva Demokratika in the meeting with Minister Brincat concerns the method of selection of the board members of the  two Authorities, as well as their senior executives (CEOs and Directors). AD believes that before government proceeds to appoint such members/executives, it should seek and subsequently follow the advice of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Environment and Development Planning . Such advice should be given by the Parliamentary Committee after the persons nominated are examined by the Committee during a sitting held in public. This change would increase the possibility of the appointment of a higher percentage of competent people as members of the board/senior executives. It would also reduce the possibility of appointing people whose only qualification is membership in the government party.

The proposed demerger is, in my view a non-issue. Legislating to facilitate the entrenching of good governance should be the real objective. After discussing the matter with Minister Leo Brincat I believe that, even at this late hour, this is still attainable.

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 16 August 2015