Salarju tal-Prim Ministru €94,000, daqs kemm kellu Austin Walker tal-MEPA ?

Austin Walker

 

L-Independent f’dawn il-ġranet żvela l-kontenut tar-rapport li l-Prim Ministru talab Kumitat magħmul mill-Ombudsman,l-Awditur Ġenerali u l-Kummissarju Elettorali Ewlieni dwar mekkaniżmu biex ikun stabilit il-ħlas li jirċievu l-politiċi (holders of political office).

Dan hu punt politiku li jirriżulta mill-polemika taż-żieda tal-€500 fil-ġimgħa li l-Kabinett immexxi minn Lawrence Gonzi ta’ lilu innifsu. Kien awto-goal li ħalla effetti negattivi mhux żgħar fuq il-Gvern immexxi mill-PN għax permezz ta’ dan il-pass idefinixxa lilu innifsu bħala Gvern insensittiv : għax fil-waqt li żied il-piż fuq iż-żgħir, fl-istess ħin ma iddejaqx jagħti lilu innifsu żidied sostanzjali.

L-Opposizzjoni dakinnhar għamlet dak li tagħmel kull Opposizzjoni: ħatfet l-opportunita’ li ngħatat lilha fuq platt. Kienet opportunita’ politika li għasritha u ħalbitha sa l-aħħar qatra possibli.

Għalhekk il-Gvern tal-lum qiegħed attent u qiegħed jipprova jiddistakka ruħu mill-proposti tal-Kumitat immexxi mill-Ombudsman Said Pullicino.

Ir-rapport tal-Kumitat immexxi mill-Ombudsman fih ħafna x’tiddiskuti.

Jiena u Arnold Cassola f’isem Alternattiva Demokratika iltqajna mal-Kumitat u iddiskutejna magħhom il-proposti li kienu qed jikkunsidraw. Huwa għalhekk ta’ sodisfazzjon għalina li l-Kumitat qabel ma waħda mill-proposti fil-programm elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika fl-aħħar elezzjoni ġenerali u għamilha tiegħu. Qed nirreferi għall-proposta li f’Malta l-Membri tal-Parlament ikunu full-timers.

Ir-rapport tal-Kumitat, li Alternattiva Demokratika ngħata kopja tiegħu madwar xahar ilu bil-kundizzjoni li żżommu kunfidenzjali, jemfasizza l-vantaġġi ta’ Membri Parlamentari li jiddedikaw il-ħin kollu tagħhom għall-ħidma Parlamentari tagħhom.

L-ikbar interess tal-gazzetti u l-aħbarijiet fuq l-istazzjonijiet tat-TV kienet ovvjament dwar is-salarji proposti.

Interessanti l-fatt li l-Kumitat qed jipproponi illi l-Prim Ministru jkollu salarju ta’ madwar €94,000. Għal min qed jaħseb li dan hu xi salarju fenomenali  tajjeb li tiftakru li Austin Walker Chairman tal-MEPA tħallas dan l-istess ammont kull sena  matul il-perjodu 2008-2013.

Diskussjoni interessanti avolja Joseph  Muscat qed jgħid li ma jaqbilx mar-rapport!

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Sabutaġġ fil-MEPA?

Gonzi.Walker.Demarco.MEPA.reform

Skond ir-rapport ta’ Ann Fenech, Austin Walker il-magħżul ta’ Lawrence Gonzi biex imexxi l-MEPA b’salarju ta’ kważi €100,000 fil-kariga doppja ta’ Chairman u CEO, kien qed jittollera s-sabutaġġ fil-MEPA.

F’paġna 5 tar-rapport tat-telfa taħt it-titlu Burokrazija żejda u sabutaġġi jingħad li “Madankollu kien hemm uffiċjali li bl-iskuża tal-burokrazija jew saħansitra bħala att ta’ sabutaġġ għamluha diffiċli ħafna biex dawn jinqdew. Fuq quddiem nett kien hemm l-Awtorità ta’ Malta dwar l-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar – il-MEPA – li saret “nightmare” mhux biss għall-kuntratturi iżda wkoll għall-familji.

Fiż-żmien li Austin Walker kien Chairman tal-MEPA (2008-2013) il-MEPA mxiet aħjar mill-ħames snin ta’ qabel, avolja xorta kien hemm diversi deċiżjonijiet li ma kienux aċċettabbli. Imma b’Austin Walker bħala Chairman naħseb li l-indħil tal-Gvern fl-operat tal-MEPA ma kienx sfaċċat bħalma kien fil-ħames snin ta’ qabel. Kien indħil iktar fin, magħmul b’iktar sengħa. Imma fi kwalunkwe ħin il-ħidma u d-deċiżjonijiet tal-MEPA kienu sinkronizzati mal-linja politika tal-Gvern. Altru milli sabutaġġ!

Imma hi tad-daħk li r-rapport ta’ Ann Fenech jgħid li fil-MEPA kien hemm is-sabutaġġ! Biex tgħid dan il-kliem jew ma jkollokx idea ta’ x’inti tgħid, inkella b’mod sfaċċat trid tgħaddi ż-żmien bin-nies!

Il-MEPA falliet mhux għax ma ħarġitx il-permessi iżda għax ħarġet wisq minnhom! Mhux għax ma “qdietx” iżda għax qdiet lil min ma kellux dritt li jinqeda!

Malta’s Nine Ghost Towns

The 2005 Census had revealed that 53,136 residential units in Malta were vacant. This was an increase of 17,413 units over the 35,723 vacant residential units identified during the 1995 Census. Faced with an increase of over 48 per cent in 10 years, a responsible government would have contained the development boundaries as existing supply can satisfy the demand for residential accommodation for many years to come.

In 2006, just nine months after the 2005 Census, the Nationalist Party-led Government defied common sense and, instead of applying the brakes, it further increased the possibilities for building development through three specific decisions. Through the rationalisation process, the PN-led Government extended the boundaries of development in all localities. Then it facilitated the construction of penthouses by relaxing the applicable conditions. If this were not enough, it increased the height limitations in various localities, intensifying development in existing built-up areas.

As a result of increasing the permissible heights, sunlight was blocked off low-lying residential buildings in the affected areas.

These residences were using sunlight to heat water through solar water heaters or to generate electricity through photovoltaic panels installed on their rooftops.

They can now discard their investments in alternative energy thanks to the PN-led Government’s land use policies!

The result of these myopic land use planning policies further increased the number of vacant properties, which is estimated as being in excess of 70,000 vacant residential units. (Mepa chairman Austin Walker, in an interview in June 2010, had referred to an estimated 76,000 vacant residential properties.)

The estimated total of vacant residential properties is equivalent to nine times the size of the residential area of Birkirkara, the largest locality in Malta, which, in 2005, had 7,613 residential units.

These ghost towns over the years have gobbled up resources to develop or upgrade an infrastructure that is underutilised. Spread all over the Maltese islands, these ghost towns have required new roads, extending the drainage system, extending the utility networks and street lighting as well as various other services provided by local councils.

The funds channelled to service ghost towns could have been better utilised to upgrade the infrastructure in the existing localities over the years.

The above justifies calls for an urgent revision of development boundaries through a reversal of the 2006 rationalisation exercise where land included for development in 2006 is still uncommitted.

Similarly, the relaxation of height limitations and the facilitated possibility to construct penthouses should be reversed forthwith.

All this is clearly in conflict with the efforts being made by the Government itself, assisted with EU funds, to increase the uptake of solar water heaters and photovoltaic panels.

I am aware of specific cases where decisions to install photovoltaic panels have had to be reversed as a result of the development permitted on adjacent property subsequent to the 2006 height relaxation decisions.

In its electoral manifesto for the forthcoming election, AD, the Green party, will be proposing a moratorium on large-scale development in addition to the reversal of the above policies as it is unacceptable that the construction industry keeps gobbling up land and, as a result, adding to the stock of vacant property.

The market has been unable to deal with the situation and, consequently, the matter has to be dealt by a government that is capable of taking tough decisions in the national interest.

Neither the PN nor the Labour Party are capable of taking such decisions as it has been proven time and again that both of them are hostages to the construction industry.

The slowdown of the activities of the construction industry is the appropriate time to consider the parameters of its required restructuring. It is clear that the construction industry has to be aided by the State to retrain its employees in those areas of operation where lack of skills exist.

There are three such areas: traditional building trades, road construction and maintenance as well as marine engineering.

Traditional building skills are required primarily to facilitate rehabilitation works of our village cores and to properly maintain our historical heritage. Our roads require more properly-trained personnel so that standards of road construction and maintenance are improved and works carried out in time. Our ports and coastal defences require a well-planned maintenance programme and various other adaptation works as a result of the anticipated sea-level variations caused by climate change.

The construction industry employs about 11,000 persons. It is imperative that its restructuring is taken in hand immediately.

In addition to halting more environmental damage, a long overdue restructuring will also serve to mitigate the social impacts of the slowdown on the families of its employees through retraining for alternative jobs both in the construction industry itself and elsewhere.

The so-called ‘social policy’ of the PN and the PL have neglected these families for years on end.

 

published in The Times on 29 September 2012

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.

Il-Mepa u Ħal-Lija

 

Il-Bord tal-MEPA illum iddeċieda li joħroġ ordni ta’ konservazzjoni għall-inħawi ta’ madwar it-Torri fi Vjal it-Trasfigurazzjoni. Pass tajjeb li isewwi wieħed mill-ħafna żbalji li saru fir-renju ta’ George Pullicino u Andrew Calleja.

Pero dan mhux biżżejjed.

Dan l-iżball huwa dwar il-mod kif saru l-Pjani Lokali.

Iċ-Chairman il-ġdid, Austin Walker jagħmel tajjeb jekk jara ftit ir-rapport tal-Awditur tal-MEPA dwar il-Pjani Lokali. Dan ir-rapport kien ukoll sostanzjalment ikkonfermat mill-Ombudsman. Jitfa dell kbir fuq il-validita’ tal-proċess tal-pjani lokali. Fuq affarijiet (proposti) li żdiedu fil-pjan “wara” l-proċess ta’ konsultazzjoni pubblika bi ksur ta’ dak li jipprovdi l-Att dwar l-Ippjanar tal-Iżvilupp.

Flok ma jieħu passi bil-biċċa l-hawn u biċċa l-hemm is-Sur Walker jagħmel tajjeb jekk jibda l-proċess biex isewwi l-izbalji l-kbar tal-pjani lokali.