Ħatriet politiċi fis-settur pubbliku (Positions of trust)

Ombudsplan 2015

Fl-Ombudsplan għall-2015 l-Ombudsman jirrimarka li l-ħatriet diretti fis-settur pubbliku [dawk li nirreferu għalihom bħala ħatriet politiċi] jistgħu jwasslu għal-nuqqas ta’ trasparenza.

Kull persuna impjegata fis-servizz pubbliku għandha tkun persuna ta’ fiduċja. L-Ombudsman fil-fatt jgħid li s-servizz pubbliku għandu jkun apolitiku u dan għax għandu jkun lejali lejn kull amminjistrazzjoni. Is-servizz pubbliku għandu jkun il-ħolqa bejn l-amministrazzjonijiet differenti u l-istrument li permezz tiegħu l-politika tal-Gvern tal-ġurnata tkun imwettqa, mhux biss b’lejalta’ lejn il-vot popolari imma fuq kollox b’ġustizzja u ekwita. Għax l-amministrazzjoni pubblika, ġdida jew qadima, hi hemm għal kulħadd. Mhiex hemm biss għal dawk li ivvutaw għaliha.

Minn mudell ta’ servizz pubbliku fuq stil Anglu-Sassonu fejn għandek servizz pubbliku permanenti mexjin lejn mudell Amerikan fejn numru kbir ta’ persuni jinbidlu mal-bidla fil-Gvern. Meta dan ma jsirx b’regoli ċari u trasparenti joħloq inġustizzji u nuqqas ta’ trasparenza.

Il-każ tal-bdil tas-Segretarji Permanenti kważi kollha mal-bidla fil-Gvern hu wieħed mill-eżempji li lkoll nafu bih. Ma ġratx biss taħt l-amministrazzjoni ta’ Joseph Muscat. Anke fi żmien Lawrence Gonzi kellna każijiet fejn il-Gvern ried jaħtar persuni li ried hu f’posizzjonijiet li qieshom bħala li huma ta’ fiduċja. Niftakru l-ħatra ta’ Direttur għall-Ħarsien tal-Ambjent u ta’ Chief Executive tal-MEPA li qabel l-2013 kienu nħatru direttament mill-MEPA bl-approvazzjoni tal-Ministru għall-Ambjent u dan mingħajr sejħa għal applikazzjonijiet.  Il-Gvern ta’ dakinnhar ma kienx qabel  mar-rapporti tal-Perit Joe Falzon (Uffiċjal tal-Verifika tal-MEPA) li kien qal b’mod ċar li dawn it-tip ta’ ħatriet ma kienux korretti.

L-Ombudsman jemfasizza li l-ħatriet f’ position of trust (ħatriet politiċi) għandhom ikunu minimi. Wieħed jifhem li kemm is-Segretarjati Privati fil-Ministeri kif ukoll uħud mill-persuni meħtieġa biex ifasslu policies għandhom ikunu persuni ta’ fiduċja. In-numru tagħhom iżda għandu jkun ċar, limitat u regolat b’mod li kulħadd ikun jaf fejn hu.

Ma dan jiena nżid nirreferi għall-ħatriet ta’ Bordijiet u Awtoritajiet. Dawn il-ħatriet għadhom jibdew isiru wara skrutinju pubbliku [public hearing] minn Kumitat Parlamentari. Dan hu punt li temfasizza Alternattva Demorkatika fil-Manifest Elettorali għall-elezzjoni ġenerali tal-2013. Huwa neċessarju li jkun assigurat li jkun hemm iżjed persuni kompetenti li jinħatru fil-Bordijiet u l-Awtoritajiet. Skrutinju pubbliku tal-persuni nominati jista’ jkun mod kif dan ikun assigurat.

 

Il-ħatriet politiċi fl-amministrazzjoni pubblika ma jistgħux ikunu eliminati. Imma nistgħu bħala pajjiż nassiguraw li l-mertu jkollu rwol ferm iktar importanti milli għandu sal-lum fil-ħatriet pubbliċi.

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Il-MEPA u l-froġa tal-Mistra Village

froga

Il-Kummissarju tal-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar David Pace f’rapport li ġie ippubblikat il-bierah it-Tnejn 2 ta’ Diċembru 2013 fi ftit kliem jgħid li l-permessi għall-iżvilupp mill-ġdid tal-Mistra Village huma froġa oħra tal-MEPA. Dan jagħmlu wara li mexxa investigazzjoni fuq talba ta’ Din l-Art Ħelwa.

Il-frejjeġ fil-MEPA li kienu jsiru taħt Lawrence Gonzi, George Pullicino u Mario Demarco għadhom qed isiru taħt Joseph Muscat u Michael Farrugia.

Hu ġustifikat, jgħidilna l-Kummissarju tal-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar, li l-permessi għall-iżvilupp tal-Mistra Village jkunu irtirati.

Ir-rapport li tistgħu taqrawh fuq is-sit elettroniku ta’ Din l-Art Ħelwa jagħti raġunijiet dettaljati biex jispjega għaliex il-Kummissarju David Pace wasal għal din il-konklużjoni. Ir-rapport jispjega xi tħalla barra fil-konsiderazzjonijiet li għamel id-Direttorat tal-Ippjanar u jgħid li l-Bord tal-MEPA kien iggwidat ħażin mill-Major Projects Unit tal-istess MEPA. Il-Bord tal-MEPA ngħata informazzjoni nieqsa u informazzjoni żbaljata.

F’pajjiż ċivilizzat il-Bord tal-MEPA kien jirreżenja en bloc wara deċiżjoni bħal din.

Darba waħda hekk kien sar meta l-Perit Joseph Falzon kien ħareġ rapport dwar il-permess abbużiv tal-LIDL ta’ Ħal-Safi fuq talba għal investigazzjoni li dakinnhar kienet saret minn Alternattiva Demokratika . Dakinnhar 6 minn 7 membri tal-Kummissjoni għall-Kontroll ta’ l-Iżvilupp li approvat il-permess kienu irriżenjaw lejlet l-elezzjoni ġenerali tal-2008.

Ma nafx kemm il-wieħed jew waħda mill-membri tal-Bord tal-MEPA għandhom il-kuraġġ li jammettu li għamlu żball u li għandhom iħallsu tiegħu billi jirreżenjaw.

Nistennew u naraw.

Il-Mercaptan: MEPA u Enemalta kompliċi ?

Il-bieraħ f’Konferenza Stampa organizzata minn Alternattiva Demokratika ippubblikajna rapport dwar investigazzjoni li saret mill-Uffiċjal tal-Verifika tal-MEPA (l-Audit Officer Joe Falzon).  Din l-investgazzjoni saret wara li jiena għan-nom ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika tlabt biex il-Perit Falzon jivestiga eżattament x’ġara, u in partikolari jekk il-MEPA għalqitx għajnejha għal dak li kienet qed tagħmel il-MEPA.

 

Mill-mod kif żviluppaw l-affarijiet AD hi tal-fehma illi kien hemm kompliċita bejn il-MEPA u l-Enemalta li serviet biex ippruvat taħbi dak li ġara. Fir-rapport tiegħu il-Perit Falzon ikkonkluda li l-MEPA naqset mill-obbligi statutorji tagħha u dan meta ma ħaditx azzjoni kontra l-Enemalta.

Tislima lil Joe Falzon

Illum ħarġet l-aħbar li l-Perit Joe Falzon ser jispiċċa mill-kariga ta’ Uffiċjal tal-Verifika tal-MEPA wara l–aħħar tax-xahar li qegħdin fih.

L-istorja hi waħda twila. Imma fil-qosor bdiet madwar 5 snin ilu fis-sajf tal-2007. Dakinnhar Joe Falzon kien għadu kif inħatar għat-tieni darba bħala Uffiċjal tal-Verifika. Meta reġa’ daħal fl-uffiċċju kien sab li l-assistent tiegħu, li kont jien, meta spiċċalu l-kuntratt ma kienux ġeddewhulu. Kienet qamet polemika fejn jiena kont akkużat li kelli konflitt ta’ interess.

Ara per eżempju dan l-artiklu tas-17 ta’ Ġunju 2007 u dan l-artiklu l-ieħor tal-24 ta’ Ġunju 2007 liema artikli ġew ippubblikati t-tnejn fit-Times.

Bħala konklużjoni tal-argumenti li kienu nqalgħu dwar id-dritt li kellu l-Perit Falzon li jaħtar l-assistenti tiegħu, u per konsegwenza jassigura l-indipendenza tal-operat tiegħu l-Ombudsman kien ippropona li l-funzjoni tal-Uffiċċju tal-Verifka kellha tgħaddi fl-uffiċċju tiegħu.

Meta eventwalment saret l-emenda fil-liġi din kienet tipprovdi illi l-ħatra l-ġdida (Kummissarju dwar l-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar jidhirli) kellha issir bi qbil bejn il-Prim Ministru u l-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni. Imma f’kaz li ma jkunx hemm qbil il-ħatra kellu jagħmilha l-Ombudsman.

Minn dak li hu magħruf s’issa jidher li l-Prim Ministru u l-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni ma qablux fuq min kellu jinħatar u l-Ombudsman għadda biex ħatar persuna huwa li ser jibda fil-ħatra fl-1 t’Awissu 2012.

Li sar ħażin kien li meta beda l-proċess li jdaħħlu fis-seħħ il-liġi l-ġdida lil Perit Falzon ma qalulu xejn. Ħallewh fil-għama u infurmawh fl-aħħar minuta!

Mal-Perit Falzon jiena ħdimt fil-qrib għal tlett snin sħaħ. Dejjem ħdimna bil-galbu u bir-reqqa u b’attenzjoni. Sfortunatament mhux talli mhux dejjem sibna l-kooperazzjoni talli ħafna drabi ħlief gambetti ma sibniex.

L-iskandlu tal-Mistra min kixfu?

Matul dawn l-aħħar jiem intqal ħafna dwar min seta kien jew ma kienx dak li saffar is-suffara (il-whistleblower) dwar l-iskandlu tal-Mistra.

Issa qed jintqal li kien uffiċjal tal-PN li wassal il-kuntratt tal-Mistra lill-Alfred Sant.

Issa jiena ngħid il-verita’ thawwadt ftit għax Alfred Sant dan l-aħħar kien ċar ħafna dwar kif wasal għandu l-kuntratt.  Sant kien ikkwotat li qal hekk :

“Kieku ma kienx għal whistleblower kuraġġuż fis-sistema pubblika li tqażżes jara l-mod kif il-korruzzjoni u l-abbuż tal-poter kienu qed jintużaw lejliet l-elezzjoni bi sfreġju kbir għall-ambjent Malti, kieku l-istorja ma kinitx tasal għandi.”

Kieku jieqaf it-taħwid fit-tixrid tal-informazzjoni jkun ta’ ġid għal kulhadd!

L-aħħar punt. L-iskandlu ma nħoloqx bil-kuntratt. Il-kuntratt u l-qliegħ li kien ser ikun ġġenerat hu biss l-effett. L-abbuż sar fil-MEPA fil-mod kif ġie ipproċessat il-permess. Kif saru laqgħat bil-magħluq. Bi pressjoni u SMSs galore sakemm rakkomandazzjoni għar-rifjut ta’ permess ġiet mibdul biex il-permess inħareg. Ħalliha li wara l-elezzjoni a bażi ta’ rapport tal-Audit Officer tal-istess MEPA dan il-permess ġie irtirat.

Tajjeb li nżommu perspettiva realistika tal-affarijiet.

AD comments on the Dwejra report of the MEPA Audit Officer

AD has published the report which the MEPA Audit Officer finalised after an AD request for an investigation of MEPA’s processing of the application relative to the Dwejra protected site.

Carmel Cacopardo AD Spokesman on Sustainable Development and Local Government stated that the report shows once more that the Environment Protection Directorate has been set aside and practically ignored in the whole process. The fact that the application was processed by the Planning Directorate with minor and informal roles for the Environment Protection Directorate demonstrates how the environment role of MEPA has been reduced  to one of mere decoration.

Carmel Cacopardo added that it is worrying that the MEPA Audit Officer has concluded that the Environment Protection Directorate has abdicated its responsibilities to the Planning Directorate. This is the logical consequence of years of ignoring by MEPA of its environmental responsibilities. This is also reflected in the report’s conclusion that the Environment Protection Directorate has failed to screen the application to establish the impact of the proposed activity and this in direct contrast to the guidelines issued by the EU on the implementation of the Habitats Directive transposed onto the Maltese statute book as per Legal Notice 311 of 2006.

AD’s chairperson, Michael Briguglio added  that the report concluded that MEPA was aware at least since the 14th October 2010 that the applicant was not observing the conditions which it had established yet it remained static and apprehensive as it wanted to avoid litigation and action for damages for possible disruption of filming activities. This is grossly irresponsible and AD expects an explanation from the MEPA CEO who needs to also explain why no monitoring was carried out when the permit clearly explained that this was to be carried out at the applicant’s expense. The substantial sums of money being paid by the taxpayer to finance MEPA  are not resulting in responsible management added Michael Briguglio.

Finally AD insists that Mr Austin Walker as one of the most paid CEOs in the public sector does not only owe the public an explanation but he must also shoulder responsibility for MEPA’s inability to react.

MEPA Audit Office Dwejra Report

Meetings Behind Closed Doors

published on November 28, 2009

by Carmel Cacopardo

________________________________________________________

 

The debate on the functioning of the Mepa audit office has identified a number of contentious issues. Foremost among them is whether land use planning decision-makers are entitled to meet behind closed doors with applicants/objectors as part of the process leading to a decision.

Those who insist that Mepa decision-makers are so entitled have clutched to Magistrate Edwina Grima’s decision of October 28, as if it were the proverbial straw. They conveniently ignore however that Magistrate Grima qualified her decision by stating that it is not an examination as to whether the Development Planning Act was observed or not but one as to whether the criminal charges brought forward by the police were proven.

Land use planning is not just about the issuing of development permits. It is an exercise whereby the community decides the manner in which development is permissible, if at all. This signifies that the decision-makers, in arriving at a conclusion, must not only consider the interests of the applicant for a development permit.

The community has the right to be heard at all stages of the decision-making process irrespective of whether it formally submits an objection to a proposal for development. It also has the right to monitor proceedings, in particular as to the information fed into the decision-taking process.

The Development Planning Act (DPA) of 1992 accepts the important role of the community in the decision-making process. Amendments throughout the years have sought to reinforce the procedures through which the community can ensure that the decision-making process is fair and reasonable.

One such procedure is that provided for in sub-section five of section 13 of the DPA. The crucial first words of the said sub-section are fundamental: “The meetings of the commission shall be open to the public.” This important statement is qualified later in the said sub-section by the authorisation to hold deliberations “in private”, that is no one except members of the Development Control Commission (DCC) and its staff can be present.

The members of the DCC have just one function: to sit as members of the commission and decide on applications in respect of which the Director of Planning, through his staff, has submitted recommendations. The DCC members have no role outside the meetings of the DCC in the same manner that a judge or a magistrate has no role outside the courtroom.

The point has been raised by Mepa chairman Austin Walker in an article titled (To Meet Or Not To Meet? (November 10) that it is perfectly legitimate for the decision-maker to seek additional information, which assists him/her in understanding the matter under consideration and, thereby, leading to a decision based on better or more accurate information.

Mr Walker knows that the ends do not justify the means. While I do not quarrel with the objective of seeking additional information where it is considered necessary, this must be carried out in a manner that is consistent with the provisions of both the letter and the spirit of the DPA. That meetings of the DCC must be held in public is fundamental in identifying the correct methods to employ in receiving information. This, to my mind, means that the decision-maker must at all times ensure that there is no direct contact with an interested party outside the formal DCC meetings open to the public. The decision-maker must be aware of the quasi-judicial role he/she is carrying out. Meeting behind closed doors with one of the parties does not contribute to ensuring that impartiality is the order of the day. It encourages the perception of both partiality and the existence of sinister motives irrespective of whether these exist or not.

How can the decision-maker ensure that the information received does not prejudice the interests of the community in general or specific objectors in particular when these are generally not aware of what went on behind closed doors? On the other hand, receipt of additional information during a public session would ensure that the information submitted is subject to public scrutiny. The community has the right to communicate its version, thereby countering, if necessary, the additional information submitted.

In a legal system based on the rule of law this is a principle of natural justice, which, in legal jargon, is referred to as audi alteram partem – listen to the other party. The practice of Mepa decision-makers meeting behind closed doors ignores this basic legal principle enshrined in the provisions of the DPA when it provides that the meetings of the commission have to be held in public.

It was on this basis that reports issued by the Mepa audit office of which I formed part during 2004-7 has continuously emphasised that meetings of Mepa decision-makers with interested parties behind closed doors are illegal.

SPIN VALLEY

Stqarrija tal-AD 

 

 

AD qed issegwi dak kollu li qiegħed jintqal dwar il-każ tal-art fil-Mistra
propjeta’ tal-Membru Parlamentari tal-PN Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando.

L-AD diġa tkellmet ċar fuq dak li huwa magħruf sa issa. Għaldaqstant f’dan
il-mument tħoss li jkun xieraq li tiddeplora l-attakki li qed isiru fuq il-Perit
Joe Falzon Uffiċjal tal-Verifika tal-MEPA.

L-AD jidhrilha ukoll li d-dewmien fil-konkuzjoni tal-investigazzjoni
mill-awtoritajiet kompetenti qiegħed inissel diversi suspetti. Każijiet ferm
iktar ikkumplikati ħadu inqas minn 48 siegħa biex ġew konklużi. Iktar dewmien
ser jirrinforza l-idea ġenerali li hemm min irid imewwet il-każ.

Nittamaw li l-investigazzjonijiet, li ilhom ghaddejjin iktar minn xahrejn, jiġu
konklużi. Il-konkluzjonijiet flimkien ma dawk tar-rapport tal-Uffiċjal
tal-Verifika tal-MEPA għandhom iwasslu biex mingħajr dewmien tkun magħrufa minn kulhadd l-istampa kollha. Aktar ma huma gravi l-każijiet aktar għandhom jitħaffu l-proċeduri u r-riżultati ta’ l-investigazjoni. B’hekk biss tista’ tikber
il-fiduċja tan-nies fl-istituzzjonijiet tal-pajjiz.

 

MEPA’s Audit Officer, Joe Falzon, says his office is swamped by complaints and he is finding it difficult to cope.

“At the moment, frankly, I am swamped. After the Mistra case, particularly, and the media exposure it was given, I was inundated with complaints and I’m not coping,” he said.

After his investigating officer, Carmel Cacopardo, was not reappointed, the audit office never really picked up the pace, Mr Falzon added.

Mr Cacopardo’s reappointment had become the centre of a bitter tug-of-war between Mepa chairman Andrew Calleja, Mr Falzon and Mr Cacopardo, which eventually led to repeated resignation threats by the auditor.

Mepa insisted that Mr Cacopardo’s position was untenable, particularly in view of a conflict of interest stemming from the fact that he publicly questioned the credentials of the man appointed director for environment protection, a post for which Mr Cacopardo himself had applied.

Both the auditor and Mr Cacopardo rebutted the claims publicly, with Mr Falzon insisting that the choice of the investigating officer was ultimately his and not Mepa’s.

The Mepa chairman at one point had asked Ombudsman Joseph Said Pullicino to intervene. While turning down the request to step in as arbiter, the Ombudsman proposed that his office services the audit office’s administrative needs to compensate for the loss of the investigating officer.

At one point the talks between the Ombudsman and Mr Falzon on the proposal appeared as though they might stall but an agreement was eventually reached and the audit officer accepted the offer.

When asked about this new arrangement, Mr Falzon said that, so far, the two offices were still trying to link up through IT. “We’ll install that and see how it works… Unfortunately it took us a long time,” he said, adding that the previous arrangement with a part-time investigating officer attached to his office was the ideal set up.

It is clear Mr Falzon remains sore about the matter. In fact, at a business breakfast on Mepa reform yesterday, he insisted, as he had done on previous occasions, that Mr Cacopardo’s effective dismissal was an example of why the planning authority ended up in the bad situation it is now.

“It’s a question of political will at the end of the day… He (Mr Cacopardo) was doing a good job, efficiently, but he was removed simply because he dared criticise the chairman, that is the minister,” Mr Falzon said.

Ir-rapport dwar il-Mistra

mistra.jpg

Ir-rapport tal-Audit Officer tal-MEPA dwar il-każ tal-Mistra li l-Prim Ministru ippubblika iktar kmieni llum ma ħasadnix. Bħalu rajt bosta oħrajn.

Huwa posittiv u ta’ inkoraġġiment li l-Prim Ministru aġixxa mill-ewwel billi ppubblika r-rapport kif ukoll billi rrinforza r-rakkomandazzjonijiet tal-Perit Joe Falzon, l-Audit Officer. Li kieku l-predeċessur tiegħu b’responsabbilta politika għall-MEPA mexa l-istess fil-passat ricenti is-sitwazzjoni fil-MEPA illum kienet tkun ħafna aħjar milli hi.

Ir-rapport tal-Audit Officer iżda m’hiex l-aħħar kelma dwar il-każ. Hemm l-investigazzjonijiet tal-pulizija li għad iridu jkunu konklużi. Hemm ukoll ir-rwol tal-Awtorita tat-Turiżmu (MTA) li jrid ikun iċċarat. Għandu jkun issottolineat li l-MTA għandha esperti fil-qasam tal-Ippjanar impjegati tagħha u ma nistax nifhem kif tasal biex ma tagħtix piż xieraq lill-konsiderazzjonijet ambjentali fil-proġetti li tagħti appoġġ.

Il-Kummissjoni li ħarġet il-permess ilha li rriżenjat. Issa naħseb li wasal il-ħin li jirreżenja ukoll min għamel pressjoni fuq membri tal-Kummissjoni għall-Kontroll tal-Iżvilupp biex jinħareġ permess illegali (ara hawn).