Wednesday, 4 June 2008

MEPA REFORM: the stage of documentations

Ippubblikati suĠĠerimenti tal-M.E.P.A. gĦar-riforma

Il-Bord tal-MEPA llum ipprezenta s-suggerimenti tieghu ghar-riforma ta’ l-Awtorita’. Dawn il-proposti, li saru mill-Bord ta’ l-Awtorita’ fuq talba tal-Prim Ministru, se jitqeghdu ghad-diskussjoni pubblika bhala parti mill-process ta’ konsultazzjoni ghar-riforma ta’ l-Awtorita’. Il-Bord fil-proposti li ghamel ikkonsulta wkoll ma’ l-impjegati ta’ l-Awtorita’.

Il-Bord ipprezenta wkoll ir-reazzjoni tieghu biex isir kodici ta’ etika u ta’ imgieba ghall-impjegati u dawk kollha li jkunu mahtura biex iservu fl-Awtorita’.

Il-Prim Ministru qal li l-proposti li qed taghmel il-MEPA se jigu kkunsidrati fi process wiesgha ta’ konsultazzjoni u proposti li qed jilqa’ l-Gvern ghar-riforma ta’ l-Awtorita’.

B’effett immedjat, kull min irid jista’ jibghat suggerimenti ghar-riforma fuq l-indirizz elettroniku:

Flimkien ma’ din l-istqarrija mahruga mid-DOI qed jigi pubblikat dokument ta’ proposti ghar-riforma li gew ipprezentati mill-MEPA, u iehor dwar Gwida ta' mgieba u Etika ta' l-impjegati tal-MEPA:

MEPA REFORM: Change for Sustainable Growth


Without doubt, MEPA is a very high profile organisation in the Maltese society.
Its very existence touches an element which is at the very heart of a society that may be defined
by its insularity. It deals in the natural and built environment. It faces the day to day dilemma of
a decision making process that strives to balance the need for socio-economic development within a sustainable context.

Increasingly our environment is becoming more important; not only from the way we plan to use
the eco-systems services but also in the way we plan not to use them. This is the dilemma that
MEPA continuously faces through its operational responsibilities.

Over the years there have been a number of attempts to reform MEPA or its predecessors. These reforms have achieved some results but still left much to be desired. It is therefore important that this reform exercise is more thorough and includes a much wider consultation than any of the previous attempts. This is important since MEPA operates not just in a national and insular context but in a reality where we, as part of the European Union, have agreed to set new benchmarks, meet obligations and address an ever-rising level of expectations.

Previous attempts at reforming MEPA have focused primarily on legalistic issues. MEPA does
not operate in a vacuum. There is a very high level of interface with many spheres of society ranging from the political sphere to the individual citizen. Issues may exist in any of these interfaces and these can hamper either MEPA’s independence or its modus operandi. Reform attempts which do not address external issues such as shared responsibilities for the environment with other regulatory agencies, relationships with clients and their professional
agents, and the varied expectations of civil society, are destined to achieve only partial success.
MEPA’s diffi cult task generates considerable debate in the community but the importance of
its role is widely acknowledged. Moreover in spite of the criticism, MEPA is arguably the most
transparent public organisation in Malta. This transparency is so real that many instances can be
quoted where challenges to MEPA’s decisions are often based and heavily reliant upon information made publicly and freely available by the Authority.

Therefore reform initiatives, further to those which had been announced in the previous legislation and which are to be placed on the agenda of the House of Representatives, should be directed to the identifi cation of the principal areas which MEPA needs to focus upon to address the real and perceived credibility defi cit that it is currently experiencing. The aim of this report is to identify action areas and outline measures which are deemed necessary to implement a successful reform process aimed at reinstating the respect that this Authority deserves.

MEPA, in 2003, declared its vision statement “We cherish our environment and plan to nurture
it, together” The Authority strives to achieve this aim through responsibility, partnership, service and commitment. The underpinning values are those of justice, professionalism and integrity. Through these means MEPA aims to direct its processes to better converge
with its mission statement.

MEPA pledges its commitment to:
1. Sustainable development by balancing pressures on the use of land and environmental objectives.
2. Consistency and consolidation of policies.
3. Transparency, accountability and effi ciency.

The translation of these ambitious objectives into tangible realities is not envisaged to constitute an easy task.


As indicated earlier, success of the reform does not solely depend upon internal interventions. Action on MEPA’s interface with the political level, other public entities, NGO’s, private entities, the media, applicants and their professional representatives as well as the public at large, is critical.

It is acknowledged that some of the criticism levelled at MEPA is justifi ed. However there
are a considerable number of instances where MEPA is placed in a position to shoulder other
agencies’ responsibilities. Part of this burden may be attributed to MEPA’s efforts to be proactive in facilitating the application process through a onestop-shop. In other instances, MEPA is blatantly and unjustly accused of shortcomings which are either non-existent or are so distorted that they paint a completely different picture. Several instances are on record where in spite of public statements to correct allegations, certain sectors persist in perpetrating incorrect information. This could easily have been verifi ed before being disseminated with the result of creating a sensation. Whilst freedom of expression is pivotal in a democratic society, one should always keep in mind ethical obligations towards the general public and should undertake
more rigour towards impartiality and the truth.

The proposed changes will definitely require a review of the resources currently available and
which already do not meet the full complement required by the organisation to fulfil all its
obligations. The Authority needs to become more attractive as an employer and be able to compete with the private sector on the job market to attract and retain staff.

These elements are discussed in more detail in Section 12 relating to Resources


The Authority’s fundamental objective is the improvement of the quality of the service it provides. The aim of the proposed changes is to see the organisation focuses on its core responsibilities and rationalise its functions through a change process involving all stakeholders in the environment field.

The delivery of a high quality of service should assume a primary focus at all levels. The end results of the proposals in this reform document are targeted to achieve substantial improvement in the role and credibility of the Authority by:
• Implementing the principles of better regulation in all processes.
• Promoting greater consistency in the interpretation of policy.
• Guaranteeing an all inclusive process by providing the best possible system for public
notification and participation.
• Facilitating and defining the access to planning and/or environment related information
• Ensuring that the public is provided with fair and adequate options of redress.
• Simplifying and consolidating the policy development process.
• Ensuring that policy review and formulation is based upon the most reasonably complete,
updated and correct information
• Ensuring that there is accountability at each decision stage.
• Prioritising and focusing MEPA’s most precious resources in an effort to direct them to the
core functions and more strategic roles of the Authority.
• Ensure that there are the requisite human, temporal, pecuniary and physical resources to
achieve objectives.

This will necessitate changes to:
• main and subsidiary legislation
• the current organisational setup
• MEPA’s internal operation procedure



At present, in spite of the various policy documents and legal frameworks, persons may sometimes mistakenly assume that a particular parcel of land may be developed in a manner or for a use which, in reality is far from being the case. This scenario leads to raised expectations which, down the application process will meet with barriers and inevitably, lead to frustration.
It is being proposed that an Environmental and Planning Screening Unit (EPSU) is set up reporting to the Director General.

The Authority will require prospective applicants to set up meetings with the ESPU to assess the
possibility of certain proposals being actuated and to identify the planning and environmental constraints in the area. Also, should the proposed development require further studies, such as an EIA, the client would be notified at that stage and consequently the costings can be planned in advance. Applications falling under the criteria listed below will require prior processing by the EPSU:
• Applications that are classifi ed as Major Projects;
• Outline Development Applications;
• Applications affecting Scheduled Properties;
• ODZ applications;
• Applications which may have an impact on Natura 2000 sites and Special Protected Areas;
• Applications for proposals subject to IPPC permits.

The services of the unit shall be at a fee which will entitle the applicant to a pre-submission meeting prior to the initiation of assessment by the EPSU.
Should additional meetings be requested by the applicant, an additional fee will be applied.
The Authority will also review its vetting process to create an effective fi lter for these types of
applications which are submitted without being first subjected to planning and environmental screening by the EPSU.

This process will be more beneficial for the client since it reduces the processing time and the
probability of having an application running aground way too late in the application process.
The Unit will be required to give a reasoned justification in cases where it makes a negative
assessment but without prejudice to the final decision. If the Applicant, even in view of a negative assessment still insists on formally submitting the application, the Authority will expedite the process for a decision based on the EPSU’s assessments.


At present, the Case Officer on behalf of the Director of Planning, shoulders all the responsibility of the recommendations to the decision bodies regarding development proposals. The land-use planning situation is becoming increasingly complex. Not only national legislation, subsidiary legislation and planning policy documents need to be evaluated but also international obligations and EU directives need to be followed. Statutory regulatory bodies at present are being consulted to submit their views on planning applications. The Case Officer may not always be the most competent to evaluate the different weightings which all submissions by other regulatory Authorities in an application require.

It is being proposed that the Inter-Departmental Expert Committee be set up, chaired by the Principal Permanent Secretary and falling under the direct responsibility of the Prime Minister.

The legal remit of the current Inter Departmental Planning Committee should be extended and the new body renamed as the Inter-Departmental Expert Committee (IDEC). This will be set up to make a collective recommendation to all government entities on situations which are referred to it by MEPA’s Director of Planning where serious objections or conflicting opinions have been raised by statutory regulatory bodies.

The IDEC would consider these situations from a technical point of view and give a conclusive
recommendation to MEPA’s Directorates after an assessment of all relevant information according to the respective competences of the members of IDEC.

The IDEC should also have the role of giving an opinion and propose strategic direction during the formulation of plans and policies prior to these being issued for public consultation. It is considered of utmost importance that the IDEC works closely with the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Audit team before fi nalizing its recommendations. For this reason it is being proposed that the SEA Audit Team should also fall under the direct responsibility of the
Prime Minister.


Currently MEPA assesses applications ranging from the simplest to the most complex including those of strategic and national importance. It is evident that the range of impacts is therefore as varied as the nature and the extent of the development. Besides the economic aspects, there are also social and environmental implications. Aesthetic, cultural, and environmental values affect the quality of life of the citizens which in turn is a major factor in determining public expectations and reactions. It is therefore inevitable that the application process is prone to various pressures.

The proposed Code of Ethics goes some way in resolving the issue of managing undue pressure.
Any reports of undue pressure reaching the Chairman shall be communicated to this committee.
To guarantee the independence and the integrity of the Authority, the Parliamentary Standing Committee shall, inter alia, have the responsibility to:
• Monitor the operations of the IDEC
• Ensure that the application process is relieved of undue pressure


The MEU, falling under the Offi ce of the Prime Minister, had carried out a detailed analysis of the processes within the Development Control Unit in MEPA on the instructions of the minister responsible.

It had concluded a document detailing the required setup and proposals for reform which had eventually received ministerial approval. Unfortunately, MEPA was not given the financial and human resources to proceed with the implementation of these measures.

One of the major changes approved in the document is that the planning process has to be
strengthened by encouraging and facilitating the negotiations and consultations within the Planning Directorate rather than having these at decision stage. MEPA feels that this opportunity should be given priority. With these changes in place, the following proposal may be considered.

The current system provides for the client another means of redress whereby, should the application be refused, a request for reconsideration may be submitted. Thus, in effect, the reconsideration process opens up a second round of negotiations which unnecessarily lengthens the application process. MEPA is concerned that this facility is being resorted to quite lightly as changes which may have been carried out before the decision are being left to the post-decision stage.

It is therefore being proposed that a request for reconsideration is limited only to contestations of permit conditions.

This change in the system may only be implemented if adequate resources are made
available to guarantee greater accessibility of the Directorates to the applicant during the application process.


The Development Planning Act gives the citizen the right to submit representations, including
objections, on development applications within a specific timeframe from publication according to
law. Details of applications are published in two weekly papers, placed on the MEPA website and
posted to the Local Councils together with the site plans of the proposed development. A site
notice is also affixed on the site of the proposed development. The Registered Objectors have rights at law, including that of being informed of changes in submitted plans, being notified of the date of the board’s sitting and submitting an appeal in front of the Planning Appeals Board.
At present, the system is giving rise to different types of complaints, the major complaint being
that of not always being able to guarantee that the site notice will remain fixed during this crucial
period. This notice is also sometimes interpreted as a ‘permit’ rather than as the notification of an application. The site notice is a fragile instrument, liable to removal by accident or purpose.
Consequently, the public may be deprived of this means of notification especially if one misses the notification in the press or on the MEPA website.

The Local Councils do not always publicise the information which MEPA sends. This leads to
the widespread complaint that the neighbours or interested parties lose their right to appeal in
instances when they would not have lodged an objection on time.

Further complications may arise when an applicant submits fresh plans. Neighbours or interested parties may have initially decided not to object to a development since it would be deemed acceptable.

Subsequent plans however, may have affected these people who, not having placed an objection and therefore are not legally registered with MEPA, are not duly notifi ed of the changes submitted. They are then faced with a development which is, from their point of view, sufficiently different from the one which they had deemed to be acceptable – and at
that point they have no means of redress.

MEPA takes note of the proposals already made by Government in this regard and further proposes to make signifi cantchanges to reduce the helplessness interested parties may feel when caught up in such situations.

• On application for a development permit or registration of appeal, a site notice is fixed to
the site of the development clearly specifying the type of request. It is further suggested that
the Local Councils monitor this to ensure that this site notice will be fixed on time and will
remain fixed and visible for the duration of the application process, failing which a fine may
be raised, payable to the Local Council. Expired notices are to be removed by the applicant after
receiving notification of these decisions. It is further suggested that the Local Council shall
monitor the removal of expired notices.

• Notifi cations of refusals and approvals shall also be published in a weekly paper with a wide
circulation, on the MEPA Website and posted to the Local Council.

• Any person may register an interest or make an objection during the whole application process
up to the time of decision by any one of the Commissions or the MEPA Board. Such persons
will be considered as registered objectors with the right to appeal as established by law.

• Moreover, any person who is not a registered objector may also submit an appeal if this is done
within 5 working days from the publication of the decision


At present, access to information is regulated by sections of the Development Planning Act and by Legal Notice 116/05 which transposed by the Aarhus Convention. The duration of Public Consultation for planning application and for policies is also stipulated at law. MEPA is arguably the most transparent institution of government. Its award-winning website is a goldmine of information. MEPA was a leader in adopting and introducing public consultation processes to our society.

There are aspects however, which need to be addressed.
• In the case of the Local Plans and in subsidiary plans, after a round of public consultation, the
Authority shall be bound to go for another public consultation exercise if subsequent changes in
the documents affect:
- zoning designation
- height limitations
- scheduling
• Consolidate market research to service the Authority’s needs in compiling the Communications Strategy and Customer Relationship Management.
• The aspect of communications needs to be built-in to all processes in the Authority and
communications cannot remain an end-of-pipe solution.
• The role and functions of the Communications Office of the Authority needs to be strengthened
and it must remain answerable to the MEPA Board. It needs to be allocated appropriate and
adequate resources, both human and financial to ensure adequate dissemination, participation
and education in all media on aspects pertaining to the environment and to land-use planning.
• Personnel need to be trained to represent the Authority in the media and all public speaking
• Reinforce and consolidate efforts to provide a call centre function within the Directorates to
facilitate response to enquiries. As a means to this end, the Customer Relationship Management
of the Authority needs to be adequately resourced.
• All information which may be viewed by the public should be clearly defined and made


In the discussion leading to the formulation of this Document, there was a conscious decision by
MEPA Board to limit its recommendations regarding reform proposals about the MEPA Board. However, there was a general feeling among Board Members that the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman of the Authority should be appointed on a full-time basis in view of the responsibilities they shoulder.
The members appointed to the DCCs are currently part time individuals. MEPA feels that certain measures with regards to the operation of these Commissions will go a long way in addressing certain concerns.
It is therefore being proposed that:
• The DCCs are reduced to 2 boards from the current set up of 3, and members appointed
as full time staff. A reduction in the number of members constituting the Commission may be
• The two Commissions will deal with the following types of applications:
- Commission A: Applications in ODZ, UCAs and Major Projects.
- Commission B: All other applications within scheme.
• In view of the different competencies required, Commission A should have a wider representation of members with expertise on urban design, architecture, environmental, rural
and heritage issues.
• The DCC Chairs or their representatives should also attend MEPA Board meetings as non-voting members.
• Since members are appointed on a full time basis, it is being suggested that in order to
attract the right calibre of person, members should have a longer tenure of office, and a
salary commensurate with the responsibility of the post.
These proposals will enable the DCCs to hold regular meetings with the Directorates to discuss
technical matters, to assess recommendations and to allow more time to carry out site inspections.


This committee is also constituted at law but is currently dormant. This Planning Consultative
Committee (PCC) has the remit to advise government and MEPA on planning policies on which it is consulted, or on its own initiative. This PCC is composed of a wide spectrum of Civil Society
and NGOs.

It is being proposed that the PCC is reactivated to enable it to act as a voice of civil society on planning and environmental matters.


Currently the Planning Appeals Board is a quasi-judicial tribunal completely independent from
MEPA. It is established and regulated by the Development Planning Act and the members are
appointed by the President of the Republic on the advice of the Prime Minister.

In view of the fact that the administration for the PABs is financed by MEPA and the offices of the PABs are on MEPA premises, the impression is created that this is an integral part of the Authority.

This is not the case and every effort should be made to rectify this perception. It is recommended that the location, finance and administration of the Appeals Board should be completely independent of MEPA.

In view of the recommendations made in this document, MEPA also suggests that a review of the number, composition and operation in these Boards be undertaken.

Legislation needs also to take into account the right of redress in front of the Planning Appeals Boards on matters involving environmental decisions. This is a crucial requirement in the Legislation in the light of access to justice directives under the second pillar of the Aarhus Convention, and the Environmental Liability Regulations already in force in Malta.

Given that the chairs of the PABs have to be lawyers, the hearings are taking a legalistic
approach. Planning and environmental issues are taking a secondary role and recourse to justice is taking more time to reach a conclusion. The system needs to render added value to the client.
Legislation should be amended to allow for a different composition of the Boards. This document
has already given proposals on how the citizen’s right to appeal can be extended. The two existing panels should consider appeals reflecting the same grouping of types of applications and expertise of members as proposed for DCC A and DCC B.

The Minister has already announced Government’s intentions to amend the DPA to allow for the
submission of an appeal, in specific situations, to stop the execution of a permit. It is therefore
being proposed that a third PAB panel should be constituted and regulated in such a manner that it can deal expeditiously with this type of appeal (Third Party) and with appeals from Enforcement Notices.

It is being suggested that enforcement must be coupled with a setting up of a strong court session which will deal solely with planning/environmental prosecution. This will be under the aegis of a magistrate who will have been well trained on such matters. With this in place the Authority would be in a position to recommend prosecutions against offenders knowing that such cases will be dealt with swiftly through this specialised court. Provisions applicable to the imposition of fi nes in the Development Planning Act should also be brought into force. This will shorten the time frames in cases where MEPA requires immediate action on Enforcement


The architecture of today is the history of tomorrow.

While MEPA is doing its utmost to obtain acceptable designs in most buildings and urban
spaces, it is felt that with the help of external expertise this will be managed better. It is being proposed that:
• A committee is to be set up between the Kamra tal-Periti, the BICC and the Faculty of Architecture to advise on aesthetical aspects of applications being processed.
• This will be considered as an external consultee who should make a recommendation during the standard consultation period as stipulated by legislation.
• MEPA needs to build capacity for urban design issues within Forward Planning and will update
the subsidiary Plans to include urban design guidance in consultation with the Aesthetics
Committee. Forward Planning shall assess the design of all streetscapes and address the
problems where they arise.


MEPA’s visibility is primarily due to the vast array of responsibilities that it carries. Originally set up as the land-use regulator, it included responsibilities for mapping services, land surveying, enforcement, and subsequently included environmental regulation, environmental inspection, environmental permitting, littering, construction site management and much more. It may be safely said that MEPA’s operations affect directly the daily lives of all citizens. MEPA feels that this is the appropriate moment to take stock and rationalise the core functions of the Authority to those which strictly relate to land-use planning and environment.

It is being proposed that:
• Various aspects of the construction process will become self regulatory.
• A Building Regulations and Standards Unit (BRSU) is set up, under an established authority
to establish standards and certify the attainment of these standards on matters such as :
- energy use and efficiency
- building regulations
- sanitary regulations
- building services
- fire and safety
- noise and vibration
• This unit is to be consulted on the above matters in each application and has the right to veto any application which does not conform to standards.
• On completion of a project this unit will certify that the project is compliant with all aspects of
the standard regulations before it can be allowed to operate.
• Requests for compliance will be assessed by this unit. In the process MEPA will be consulted
only about planning and environmental matters before the full compliance certifi cation is issued
by this unit.

• A National Enforcement Agency should be set up to carry out enforcement on behalf of all
government entities. This shall include the relevant units of ADT, ALE, MEPA, OHSA, Tourism and all other agencies which require enforcement of regulations and direct action. This National
Enforcement Agency needs to be properly resourced.

• Construction Site Management Regulations and Littering are to be devolved to Local Councils
since these already have an enforcement system in the form of Local Wardens.

MEPA will retain the functions of:
• Regulating and formulating land use and environmental plans and policies.
• Processing planning and environmental applications.
• Handling reports regarding planning and environmental illegalities. MEPA will follow up on each case by sending its inspectors. If on inspection it results that irregularities have been committed, a formal notice will be communicated to the offender. In cases where enforcement action is necessary, instructions will be communicated to the National Enforcement Agency.
• Environmental Permitting to regulate environmental impacts arising during the operational phase of establishments posing a potentially signifi cant risk to the environment, such as through pollution of air, water or soil, usage of hazardous substances, as well as through noise and energy usage.
• Mapping agency & land surveying.

The setting up of a National Enforcement Agency will free MEPA’s inspectors to focus on illegalities in ODZ’s. This agency, properly resourced, will be prompt and efficient in effective enforcement. The Building Regulations and Standards Unit will be responsible for the technical aspects of development and will relieve MEPA of aspects of development which are not related to land-use and environmental planning and regulation. Local Councils are more sensitised to issues pertaining to their locality. They already carry the cost burden of Local Wardens so
the remit can easily be extended in this direction.

Currently there are a number of overlaps of responsibilities with other regulatory agencies.
It is proposed that a review is undertaken on overlaps of responsibility with other agencies and
consolidate functions as required according to the core competences of the respective authorities.


A system should be introduced to ensure that new legislation, including EU proposals, is properly
assessed in terms of its administrative burden in order to ensure that the resources necessary for implementation are identifi ed at an early stage and made available, with appropriate prioritisation.

Similarly, the work carried out by MEPA as the technical arm on behalf of the Ministry responsible for the Environment, particularly in connection with EU-related work, should be properly quantified and charged separately. Sufficient resources should be allocated for these tasks to ensure that these do not impinge on the Authority’s other roles and in particular its ability to be a clientoriented organisation. In particular, dedicated resources need to be assured for the purposes of fulfilling EU reporting requirements. The lack of timely reporting to the EU Commission is the most common source of infringements that are levelled against Malta. Delays in information gathering and reporting invariably also lead to delays in the development of plans and programmes to manage impacts on the environment.

It is the intention of MEPA to become more reliant on revenues that are generated from its own activities and to decrease the dependence from the subvention monies that are allocated by the Ministry of Finance.

MEPA is largely funded from a subvention totalling about €5.600.000 from the Ministry of Finance, the Economy and Infrastructure (MFEI), and through the established service fee structure. Our major operational costs are largely associated with processing permits, compliance monitoring and reporting activities however these costs are not totally recovered through the fees currently being charged. Whereas in reality charging schemes are
designed to recover costs based on the development planning fees or through the polluter pays principle in accordance with government and Ministry of Finance guidance, in effect this is not the case.

The charges mentioned above are not suffi cient to render the Authority autonomous to fi nance most of its operations. For the Planning Directorate cost recovery should be through the Development Planning Fees and charges for other services (selling of plans, maps and others), whereas for the Environment Directorate the charges should reflect the polluter pays principle, which means that the operators pay for this service and in principle means that costs are reflected back to the consumer of the goods the operator is producing.

Current legislation should be amended to allow the regulator to operate a number of charging schemes with the purpose of recovering costs associated with activities in relation to holders of licenses under various regulatory regimes. These should generate a significant portion of total income and underpin expenditure within MEPA in these areas. These charges when set, shall take account of local circumstances and government direction, including a public consultation process. Nonetheless MEPA has to ensure that regulation costs are recoverable through charges.
Charging principles may include:
• The full recovery of costs associated with processing permits, compliance monitoring and
reporting activities
• Cost recovery of the whole regulatory function
• Reviewing and adjusting the charges to follow operation efficiency.

MEPA should therefore undertake a review of the overall operation flows and the resources required to implement the requirements of the Planning and Environment Acts with a view to determining which tasks are to be recovered through the charging scheme. This review process shall seek to calculate time and human resources required to deliver the provisions of both Acts. Data on the workload breakdown need to be collected and evaluated so that each activity can be timed and costed. The review group shall make proposals as to how best to improve the process, where applicable, and to attribute a cost to that operation. The charging regime would then have to reflect this cost. This review would therefore ensure that the process will be transparent and that it represents good governance.

However this is not enough, and the Authority needs to focus more on the cost pressures that it
currently faces with a view to minimising these costs, making them more predictable and stable.
MEPA has already embarked on an exercise to identify:
• Cost cutting measures including getting value for money;
• Reviewing current practices and stream line operations in line with established Quality
Management Systems and Standards;
• Where possible re negotiate contracts and agree on service levels; non compliance with agreed
service levels will be liable to financial penalties;
• Enhancing current services to the public and MEPA customers. MEPA will also undertake
a regular systematic survey of client/public expectations and perceptions of the quality of
delivery of the Authority’s service;
• Developing further the on-line services against a system of payment and using eApplications to
generate revenue in this area.

A special effort needs also be undertaken to reduce the carbon footprint of MEPA’s building to be
in line with those of more effi cient buildings. Apart from having the benefit to protect the environment, such initiative will also impact on the financial bottom line.

In conclusion, it is therefore imperative that in order for MEPA to tackle the financial sustainability of the organisation it has to embark on the review of its operation, identifying and quantifying cost elements and cost pressures with a view to enable charges /fees to be set equitably and to exercise cost control on its various activities.

The Environment Protection Directorate should have sufficient capacity in order to monitor and
safeguard the Environmental Liability Directive, now an obligation under EC law, so as to provide an effective deterrent and mechanism for remediation of environmental damage.

Our main assets reside in the intellectual ability to innovate, create, think differently and inspire. In the local scene the shift in ICT mentality has made great strides and the success recorded in this sphere is primarily due to the efforts by all (government, university, technical colleges and others). This is certainly the case for the specialised staff that the MEPA requires to be able to satisfy its highly dynamic regulatory role.

There is what we call the educational deficit in addressing the needs of the various other sectors primarily connected with economic and environmental sustainability. People who will be employed with MEPA need to have the educational background and continuous training that is essential for them to be able to deliver on their job.

MEPA is experiencing a shortage of staff in various spheres. As the single largest professional
employer outside the University of Malta, MEPA needs specialised staff. Unfortunately a number of factors are conspiring to make recruitment difficult, if not downright impossible. In so far as planning qualifications go the University does not hold graduate or under-graduate courses specialising in spatial planning but only offers an urban design stream in the architects’ course of studies. Graduates are also finding other more attractive salaries and working conditions elsewhere. MEPA is now finding it increasingly difficult to attract new blood into its
ranks and as the work is increasing, due to Malta’s obligations under the EU Acquis, this added work load must still be shared among the remaining staff.

Although salary scales are higher than what the Public Service offers, when compared to private
enterprises, these become less of an influencing factor when the new graduates seek new work
opportunities. The market rates are higher than what MEPA offers. One measure that has been
successfully used elsewhere is to award a market adjustment to certain job grades that are in great demand elsewhere. This serves to attract / retain staff to MEPA, when we know that there are attempts (and there have been successful ones at that) to deplete our hard won resources.
This situation is not sustainable with the net effect being that specialised staff is seeking alternative employment elsewhere and it is already having an impact on the deliverables to the public and degradation to the value added service that MEPA seeks to deliver.

The reactions by the competent authorities to MEPA’s requests to increase and even replace the
staff complement have not been very helpful in solving the lack of capacity and a re-evaluation
needs to be carried out based on what the Authority actually needs in terms of institutional capacity.

Efforts must therefore be directed to creating the right environment, the correct staff complement and protection from direct and unjustifi ed criticism.

The Authority requires specialised staff with more varied backgrounds and competences and not only having graduated with the ubiquitous degree in Chemistry and Biology. The Authority also needs engineers, planners, economists, and lawyers with specialisation in Planning /Environment laws and many others. In this regard recognizing the role of the planning function through a chartered status of qualified planners would be helpful.

The Authority is having to invest considerable time and financial resources to upgrade the competences and skills of the staff that it had to recruit. Normally the inductees need time to become really effi cient in their work since they need to become accustomed to the provisions of the legislation, regulations and the vast amount of EU directives that are transposed into Maltese legislation and others that are yet to come into force. This however becomes all the more difficult if officers are recruited to work in areas that have not featured in detail in their studies.

It is therefore being suggested that:
• MEPA prepares a needs analysis of the educational background and competences of the
staff that it needs to recruit keeping in view the bulk of legislation and other obligations we have
to follow; the institutional capacity analysis to be undertaken has to also take into account the
present resources element and identify areas of opportunity for further training;
• Hold discussions with Institutions such as the University of Malta, MCAST and the ETC with a
view to having Educational Courses tailor-made to the MEPA requirements;
• Possibly seek EU aid to train MEPA staff in the areas that cannot be covered by the local
educational institutions;
• Formulate refresher courses for staff already in MEPA employment as identified by the training needs analysis.

It is to be mentioned that as an Authority, apart from the regulatory role, we also have the
responsibility and a duty to teach and lead others into complying with the regulations with the least effort. We need to reinforce our position to facilitate the standing of the Authority, enhance people’s perception of it and get back the respect we deserve, and maximise on our intellectual capital that has tangible value. Fact based decision making is important and unless the proper reviews and studies are carried out it will be useless embarking into a course of action that may not satisfy the need of the reformed Authority in the medium and long term.

A guide to good conduct: A code of Ethics and a Code of Practice for MEPA staff and appointees is also published.

A code of Ethics and Code of Practice for MEPA Staff and Appointees



This Code of Ethics is applicable to all employees Ethics is applicable to all employees and appointees of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) unless otherwise indicated.

1.2 In this Code, unless the context otherwise implies:

Active in politics
means the active involvement of the person concerned in the administration and/or representation of a political party both on a national as well as at locality level.

Appointee of MEPA
means any person appointed to a post, board or committee listed in Appendix I to this Code.

Audit Officer
means the Audit Officer appointed in terms of Article 17C (1) of the Development
Planning Act (Cap 356).

The Authority has the same meaning assigned to it by the Development Planning Act (Cap 356).

Code means this Code of Ethics

Declaration of interests
means the declaration submitted by employees and/or appointees in terms of Section 3 and as per format in Appendix III to this Code.

Development Control Commission means the Development Control Commission established under Article 13 of the Development Planning Act (Cap 356).

Employee of MEPA means a full or part-time employee of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority irrespective of grade or nature of contract.

Ethics Committee
means the Ethics Committee established as per Chapter 12 of this Code.

has the same meaning assigned to it by the has the same meaning assigned to it by the Local Councils Act (Cap 363).

MEPA means the Authority.

MEPA Chairman means the Chairman of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority appointed in terms of Article 3 of the Development Planning Act (Cap 356).

Secretary to the Authority means the person appointed as MEPA Secretary in terms of Article 6(4) of the Development Planning Act (Cap 356).

This Code complements existing legislation and regulations and amplifies the Code of Ethics for Employees in the Public Sector and the Code of and the Code of Ethics for Board Directors’ Public Sector published in October and November 1994 respectively by the Cabinet Office at the Office of the Prime Minister.
It also complements the Code of Ethics which is included as Schedule I in the Public Administration Bill. Should there be requirements in this code which are in confl ict with the above mentioned codes, the latter will take precedence.

The public has a right to expect that the business of MEPA is conducted with efficiency, fairness, impartiality and integrity, treating all citizens fairly, reasonably, equitably and promptly. The appointment to any of the posts, boards or committees listed in Appendix I as well as employment with MEPA carries with it a unique obligation to the public and this demands that all employees and appointees attain standards of professional and personal behaviour which will maintain public confi dence and trust.

A number of the obligations and standards set out in this Code are also to be found in legislation. Therefore in some cases a breach of the provisions cases a breach of the provisions of this Code may involve a criminal offence whilst in other cases it may amount to serious breaches
of discipline and the possibility of removal from appointments or dismissal from employment,
the latter subject to the relative provisions of the Collective Agreements in force at MEPA and/or contracts of service.

1.6 This Code determines a number of responsibilities to the members of the Authority. Unless
specifi cally stated in this Code, the Authority shall not delegate any of its responsibilities arising out of this Code to any person, board, committee or sub-committee.

1.7 All employees and appointees shall be handed a copy of this Code: employees upon engagement and appointees upon appointment.


2.1 This Code of Ethics rests upon a number of values which require that employees and
appointees behave with:
• Integrity
• Honesty
• Loyalty to the public interest
• Impartiality
• Conscientiousness
• Equity
• Transparency
• Accountability

2.2 All employees and appointees should ensure that their private activities are not likely to influence in one way or another their public duties.

2.3 Employees and appointees shall make a proper use of the opportunities, presented by MEPA and should not use these opportunities for improper advantage. They shall not allow their personal interests to conflict with those of MEPA or its clients nor shall they misapply MEPA’s assets.


All employees and appointees shall avoid being in a situation which gives rise to a conflict
between their duties towards MEPA and their interests. In particular they shall avoid any
financial or other interest or undertaking that could directly or indirectly compromise the performance of their duties.

3.2 (i) Since it is generally only the employee or appointee who is aware of the potential
conflict of interest, the onus is on the employee or appointee to report, if a potential or actual confl ict of interest arises.
(ii) All appointees listed in Appendix I to this Code, as well as all employees having appointments in the Grades listed in Appendix II to this Code shall submit in writing to the
Secretary of the Ethics Committee a declaration of interests on the form prescribed in Appendix III to this Code. The declaration should include those interests that could conflict, or be perceived to conflict, with the role of MEPA.

3.3 MEPA employees who are seconded to carry out duties elsewhere and may still have a role in the functions of the Authority shall not be exempted from submitting the declaration of interests as per section 3.2 above.

3.4 The Secretary of the Ethics Committee shall transmit all declarations of interests received
to the said Ethics Committee and shall thereafter place these in safekeeping. Except as is otherwise provided in section 11.6 of this Code, these declarations of interest shall remain
confidential. The Ethics Committee shall only permit access to a declaration of interest
submitted, if such access is reasonably required for the purposes of an investigation by a body
competent at law.

3.5 Employees or appointees shall, when drawing up the declaration as per Appendix III, include the interests of their spouses and minor children.

3.6 It is stated for clarity’s sake that whilst a declaration of interests as per this Code is being
limited to the interests of employees/appointees and the members of their household (spouses
and minor children), this does not mean that other interests which the employees/appointees
might have, are being ignored. The declaration of interests deals only with those interests as
specified in Appendix III. Other interests which may exist and which are generally only known to the employees/appointees should be acted upon when the circumstances so warrant.

3.7 The declaration of interests in the form established at Appendix III to this Code shall be
submitted by all employees and appointees. A fresh submission of the declaration of interests
duly updated, shall be made only whenever circumstances so require.


All employees or appointees are duty bound to reject totally and immediately any undue
pressure that is brought to bear on them in order to influence them in their behaviour or decisions. The exercise of legitimate management authority shall not be construed as undue pressure. Undue pressure is considered to take place if a person demands a specific line of action, especially if accompanied by a form of threat or promise of reward, implicit or explicit, and/or where there is persistence by the person in seeking a particular outcome.

4.2 The nature of the responsibilities of MEPA is such that contact between MEPA employees/
appointees and holders of political office is inevitable particularly when the latter communicate policy or government direction. Notwithstanding, employees and appointees are duty bound to reject undue pressure brought to bear on them by holders of political offi ce where such pressure is not in line with the above.

4.3 If an attempt as per section 4.1 and 4.2 above is made, the employee / appointee shall inform the Director or Chairman respectively. The Director/Chairman shall report this to the Secretary of the Ethics Committee if it is deemed necessary. Such reports should be copied to the Parliamentary Standing Committee.


No employee or appointee should accept a gift or benefit, including sponsored travel and
hospitality, if considering the circumstances it could be interpreted as intended or likely to
cause the employee or appointee to do his or her job in a particular way or to deviate from the
proper course of duty.

5.2 A gift could be interpreted as an inducement or a reward simply because of intrinsic value, and therefore only token gifts may be accepted.

The principles in sections 5.1 and 5.2 shall apply not only to employees or appointees, but also to their spouses and minor children.

If employees or appointees are offered an undue advantage they should take the following steps to protect themselves:
a) refuse the undue advantage,
b) avoid lengthy contacts,
c) report in writing the attempt as soon as possible to their supervisor or board chairperson, the Ethics Committee or directly to the appropriate law enforcement authority.
In the case of employees, their supervisors will decide whether they will continue on that task or whether to assign the task to someone else.


An employee or appointee shall, when participating in a meeting of any body, board, committee or sub-committee within MEPA, declare his/her interests relative to the matter
under consideration, if such interests exist. The declaration shall be registered in the minutes.
The individual shall withdraw from the meeting when the matter in which he/she has the declared interests, is being considered. If in the opinion of the members present at the meeting the declared interest does not merit an exclusion, the individual member may be asked to reconsider.

6.2 The Secretary to the Authority shall be informed of each case when an interest has been registered in the minutes of the meetings. If it results to the said Secretary that an employee/appointee is being faced with frequent cases of conflict of interest, or if the interests registered are such that the meetings of the body, board or committee within MEPA is being hampered, then the Secretary shall draw the attention of the Authority in order that appropriate action be taken.

6.3 Except for the Chairperson, no member of the DCC shall discuss with applicants/interested
parties any pending application, except during the meetings of the said DCC. Where the Chairperson meets an applicant/interested party, the case officer or his superior should also be
present but if this is not possible another official of the Directorate is to be present.

6.4 Appointees shall not have access to MEPA files or documents unless authorized by the Authority. In particular, privileged access to documents and files shall be limited to those files and documents relative to matters being discussed in the board, committee or subcommittee of which the appointee forms part.


Employees and appointees should perform all duties associated with their position, diligently,
impartially and conscientiously, to the best of their ability. They must:
a) strive to obtain the best value for public money spent and avoid waste and extravagance in the use of public resources;
b) not take or seek to take improper advantage of any confidential/sensitive information
gained in the course of their term of office or employment;
c) not wilfully nor negligently supply anyone with incorrect or misleading information;
d) not indulge in favoritism or nepotism;
e) ensure that the advice given is objective, impartial and complete in all instances, based
on facts and the relevant policies and in line with their technical competence;
f) treat members of the public and other staff members with courtesy and sensitivity to
their rights.

7.2 (a) In the performance of their duties, employees are expected to give full support to current policy once this is approved by the appropriate authorities. The views and beliefs of the
employee should not take precedence over those explicit or implicit in current approved
(b) Appointees are expected to give full support to current policy once this is approved by the
appropriate authorities. The values and beliefs of the appointee should not take precedence over those explicit or implicit in the current approved policy. When faced with having to implement a policy which is at variance with his/her view, an appointee is to make known his views to the other appointees on the board and, use his or her discretion, to consider carefully the respective
weighting that he/she shall give to that policy within the overall policy context.

7.3 Employees and appointees are reminded of their legal obligations regarding avoidance of
discrimination and harassment.

7.4 Employees and appointees are individually required to act honestly and in good faith seeking
the best interest of MEPA and shall exercise the care, diligence and skill that a prudent person
would exercise in comparable circumstances.

7.5 All employees and appointees are encouraged to report to the Ethics Committee (vide Section 11 below) any unethical behaviour which is detrimental to the credibility and impartiality
of MEPA observed during the course of their duties. MEPA should take steps to ensure that an
employee or appointee who reports unethical behaviour or any other wrong doing is not
victimized. However, if the report which has been lodged is found to be false or grossly unfounded, disciplinary action by the Authority will be taken.

7.6 MEPA shall take steps to protect the confidential information to which employees and appointees have access during the course of their duties. Appointees shall be required to bind themselves in writing, on appointment, not to divulge to unauthorized third parties such confi dential information. Likewise MEPA shall bind all its employees with a condition in their contract of service through which they shall declare that they will not divulge to third parties, nor make
unauthorized use of confi dential information to which they shall have been privy during their employment. Provisions compatible with this Section shall be included in the Collective Agreements applicable at MEPA at the first opportunity.

7.7 Membership in any organisation does not exonerate employees from their responsibility of
not divulging confidential information. When in doubt specifi c authorization should be sought.

7.8 Membership in a secret society is incompatible with the duties of employees and appointees.


8.1 Employees and appointees should seek to ensure the best value for money in drawing up the
specifi cations and the conditions of procurement and in the adjudication of the offer or offers.
Specifi cations are not to be restrictive in such a manner as to exclude a number of potential
bidders. Tenders issued are to be in line with Government’s procurement policy.

8.2 In all procurement practices, including the setting out of procedures for tendering, employees and appointees must bear in mind that the expenditure involved is being incurred out of public funds and seek best value.

8.3 The highest possible level of accountability and transparency should be refl ected in every stage of the decision making process of procurement.


9.1 Employees and appointees should act in a politically neutral manner and ensure that their
political interest does not compromise the conduct and public perception of the duties of
their office.

9.2 To this end, employees and appointees should refrain from political activity at MEPA and the use of MEPA owned equipment or material for such activities.

9.3 It shall not be compatible with their duties, for employees listed in Appendix II to this Code
(except for Grades 1, 2 and 3) to hold a position in a National or European Parliament or as a Mayor in a Local Council. In the event that the employee attains such political offi ce, the employee will have the option to retain the substantive post without pay for the duration of the term of office.
Moreover, for employees at Grade C or upwards, it shall not be compatible with their duties as
employees to actively participate in a political activity, although “passive” attendance to political
activities is not considered as incompatible.

9.3.1 If an employee intends to seek political office, the employee has to inform the authority on
offi cially declaring the candidature to run for office. The Authority retains the right to ask the
employee to take special leave of absence in the interim period.

9.3.2 Employees currently holding political offi ce, other than those specifi ed in Section 9.3, shall ensure that their participation in political activities does not bring them into confl ict with their role as an employee and that it shall not in any way undermine the impartiality and the credibility of MEPA. If a confl ict of roles does arise, the employee shall stop participating in that political activity which is giving rise to the conflict.

9.4 In order to avoid the perception of conflict of interest, with the exception of the provisions of
Article 3(3) of the Development Planning Act, no person shall be eligible for appointment to
any of the boards, committees or posts listed in Appendix I to this Code before one year has
elapsed from being active in politics.

9.5 Employees shall not involve themselves in the media on matters relating to the role of the
Authority unless specific prior written permission is obtained from the MEPA Chairman. In such
cases, comments made by MEPA employees shall be confined to factual information and shall not
express opinion on policy or decisions taken.

9.6 All appointees shall handle with care their contributions to the media in order to avoid
transmitting confl icting messages to the public.


Subject to the Collective Agreements in force, written permission is required before MEPA employees may engage in any form of business or employment outside their offi cial duties.

10.2 In all cases when part-time employment is considered, MEPA employees should give their
MEPA employment fi rst consideration and avoid situations which could give rise to, or the
appearance of, a confl ict of interest. Where such situations are predicted it shall be reasonable to
withhold permission.

10.3 Former employees are not allowed to be involved in any application or planning issue
in which they were previously involved in as MEPA officers. Nor are they allowed to divulge
to third parties, nor make any use of confidential information to which they were previously privy during their MEPA employment.


The Ethics Committee shall consist of members appointed as follows:
Three members appointed by the Minister in consultation with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Planning and the Environment.
A non-voting secretary shall also be appointed by the Minister.

The Ethics Committee shall have the following terms of reference:
a) to examine all declarations submitted in terms of section 3.2 of this Code;
b) to advise the Authority and/or the Minister responsible for the appointments, of any action required to be taken as a result of the examination of the declarations submitted or not submitted.
c) to consider all ethical matters arising in MEPA and to advise the Authority/Minister responsible thereon, this to include advice on any allegations of breach of the provisions of this Code. Such reports should be copied to the Parliamentary Standing Committee.
d) to monitor the operation of this Code and recommend amendments when the need for these arise.
e) to consider reports made of unethical behaviour and in particular to ensure that MEPA abides by provision 7.5 of this code.

11.2 No actions should be undertaken against the accused before the alleged breach of the Code of Ethics is proven.

The Ethics Committee shall conduct its business in the presence of a quorum which shall consist of the Chairman and one member. Where the Chairperson is unavoidably absent, one of the other members shall sit in as Chairperson.

11.4 The Ethics Committee shall determine its own procedures but it shall not delegate any of its
functions and responsibilities.

11.5 The Ethics Committee shall keep a register of all declarations received and shall keep
records whenever access is given to a particular declaration. When the Ethics Committee decides
to permit access to a declaration of interests, it shall notify the employee or appointee
concerned immediately of its decision.

11.6 The Register shall always be available for inspection by Ethics Committee and MEPA board.


12.1 This Code shall apply immediately to all employees and appointees subject to the
exceptions listed in this section.

12.2 Declarations of interests by current employees and appointees, shall be submitted within two months of the coming into force of this Code, and thereafter in accordance to the provisions of this Code.

12.3 Employees who are currently occupying posts of elected political office as specified in Section 9.3 shall serve their current term and may contest for further terms. Upon losing political office they thereafter shall conform to section 9.3 of this code.


Sanctions shall be applied if MEPA employees are found to be in breach of this Code of Ethics. The sanctions applied shall depend on the seriousness and nature of the breaches and may entail formal disciplinary action as applicable in consultation with the Ethics Committee

13.1.1 Sanctions against appointees shall be dealt with by the nominating authority in
consultation with the Ethics Committee MEPA is issuing a Code of Good Conduct in conjunction with this Code of Ethics. This provides clear guidelines to all appointees and employees on how to interpret and apply this document. These two documents should be read together.

MEPA Appointees to whom this Code of Ethics shall apply
(Section 1.1 of this Code)
• Members of MEPA (Article 3 of the Development Planning Act)
• Secretary to the Authority (Article 6(4) of the Development Planning Act)
• Members of the DEVELOPMENT CONTROL COMMISSION Divisions A, B, & C
(Section 3 of the Development Planning Act)
• Members of the HERITAGE ADVISORY COMMITTEE (both Panels)
(Article 8(5) of the Development Planning Act)
• Members of the PLANNING CONSULTATIVE COMMITTEE (Article 12 of the Development Planning Act)
• Members of the USERS’ COMMITTEE (Article 17 A of the Development Planning Act)
• Members of the MINERALS ADVISORY BOARD (Structure Plan Policy MIN 3)
• Members of the IPPC COMMITTEE (Schedule 6 of Legal Notice 234/2002)
• Members of the ORNIS COMMITTEE (Legal Notice 146/1993, as amended)
• Members of the BIO-SAFETY COMMITTEE (Legal Notice 290/2002, as amended)
• Chairman of the ETHICS COMMITTEE (Appointed in terms of Article 0.02 of this Code of Ethics)
• Audit Officer Appointed in terms of Article 17C or the Development Planning Act

MEPA Employees who shall submit a Declaration of Interest in terms of Section 3.2 (ii) of the Code
• Director General
• Director of Planning (Appointed in terms of Article 6(1) of the Development Planning Act)
• Director of Environmental Protection
• Director for Corporate Services
• Assistant Directors
• AII members of Staff at the Audit Offi ce
• Employees occupying Grades 1,2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8
• Officers occupying Grades A, B, C, D, and E

For employees and appointees of the

A public officer needs to balance good and timely judgment, responsibility, initiative and common
sense. In an area as difficult as sustainable development, and in a country where interests
collide frequently and with force, the behaviour and decisions of public officers and appointees is bound to be minutely scrutinized. All decisions must be and be seen to be above discussion.
These guidelines have been designed to help MEPA appointees and employees to manage the
often diffi cult and delicate judgments they have to make. They define the standard that is expected of everyone and provide advice on how to deal with situations where competing pressures apply. When complied with, they can protect employees and appointees in the face of external criticism.

These guidelines apply to everyone in MEPA , from the highest officials to the lowest ranking employee, from the longest serving to the newest recruits, including contractors or on-site consultants with short-term relationships with MEPA. They should also be seen to include guidance for people who deal with us, by telling them what our standards are, and what
we ask of them in maintaining that standard. They are meant to help all of us carry out sensitive roles more effectively. The Authority can only function effectively if there is trust among all those involved.

There must be trust between appointees in decision committees and offi cers in the directorates and between the public and the Authority.

The Authority’s role increasingly calls for judgments between competing interests and values
where there is no single “right” answer. Ethics provide guidance in cases where no specifi c rule is in place or where matters are genuinely unclear. Ethics are based on the fundamental moral principles that should underpin every decision and action you take in doing your job. They help determine what is right and proper in our actions. The individuals who make up MEPA come from a variety of backgrounds and hold a variety of views and expectations. To ensure we adopt consistent approaches and standards, MEPA has defi ned a common set of values that can
be applied across the organisation. These values reflect both our goals as an organisation and our
individual responsibilities as public servants.

Other people’s expectations may be different. Being ethical and following good practice, also
involves taking other people’s views into account such as those of your manager or another team
member, Authorities, the public, or interest groups.

It is often useful to discuss ethical problems with other people to get an objective outlook before
making a decision.

Being ethical means to:
• act legally and with integrity;
• be honest;
• ensure you have suffi cient knowledge to do your job properly, fi nd out the correct procedures and follow them;
• act within your authority and knowledge;
• make decisions based on their merits;
• provide comprehensive and unbiased advice;
• provide timely feedback and support;
• accept the legitimate decisions made by others;
• treat all people equally and respect their point of view;
• avoid and declare confl ict of interest;
• respect privacy and confidentiality;
• not accept gifts or benefits that can create a perception of bias or favouritism;
• work efficiently and effectively to the best of your ability; and
• respect the environment.

Naturally, no set of guidelines can cover every possible situation. The guidelines themselves must be read with common sense, judgment and respect for the spirit of their objectives.
However, understanding and adhering to the spirit underlying the Code of Ethics will assist you in forming judgments about how to deal with individual situations as they arise. MEPA makes the commitment that if you conscientiously adhere to the spirit and content of the Code of Ethics, your actions will be accepted and defended against criticism.


MEPA has a particular responsibility to respect the environment in its policy, planning and
regulatory activities. This includes understanding and taking account of all the issues that impact on environmental decisions, such as:
• quality of life;
• sustainability;
• biodiversity;
• socio-economic development;
• heritage value;
• cost; and
• technology.

In addition MEPA operates in an environment where its advice, recommendations and decisions
must be balanced and impartial. Its decisions affect many parties and the views and interests of those parties can be widely divergent and sometimes in direct conflict. In these circumstances, its decisions and its decision-making process must be fair, transparent and defensible. For MEPA
appointees and employees, the need for fairness and transparency is particularly important because:
• they administer planning and land management policies and procedures affecting the community in which we live; and
• they may own or have interests in property that may be affected by planning and land management decisions.

As a result there is a real potential for conflict between the private interests of MEPA appointees
and employees and the actions and decisions of the organisation. By having and adhering to these
guidelines, MEPA appointees and employees can protect themselves from allegations of impropriety and handle their legal obligation to manage conflict of interest.


A conflict of interest arises when your private interests impact on your offi cial duties. While this
section gives the general principles on addressing Conflicts of Interest, a more detailed approach may be found in the Code of Ethics document. A private interest arises if your work actions directly affect:
• your direct family or persons with whom you have a strong personal link or business
• organisations you are actively involved in – e.g. associations, common interest groups, a political organisation;
• work done by you on a voluntary basis for community organisations;
• people who could directly influence your future – e.g. your neighbor, your bank manager; and
• your financial or professional interests.

The range of situations in which a potential conflict of interest can arise can be very wide. Conflicts of interest can arise with gifts, hospitality, events, travel and accommodation. Because the range of situations is so wide, and because the closeness of many relationships/linkages is very subjective, we cannot simply rely on our own judgment. What is important is not what you think, but what reasonable observers would think if they knew all the facts.

The test for a possible conflict of interest is:
Would a reasonable person believe that the interest you have could influence your action/decision?

Consult the Ethics Committee if you have any doubt about whether a possible conflict exists or
whether you need to declare it. If/when the Ethics Committee thinks there could be a perceived conflict of interest, it is essential that any instructions from the committee are followed. It is important to understand “perception” and be able and willing to see the situation from an outsider’s perspective.

Clearly, with such a broad range of possibilities, conflict of interests cannot always be avoided.
Furthermore it is important to understand that it is not wrong for a conflict of interest situation to arise.

The important thing is to properly manage situations that do arise in a fair and transparent manner. This is best done by declaring a possible confl ict well in advance of it becoming a reality. It is important to declare potential confl icts as soon as possible after the relevant facts have come to your notice. This will depend on how direct the confl ict is, and the nature of the interest it affects.

Possible outcomes are:
• simply complete a confl ict of interest declaration to protect you, should it subsequently become an issue;
• another staff member may be re- allocated to handle the issue;
• an independent person may be included in the process;
• move to another area of work either temporarily or (less likely) permanently; or
• in the case of an appointee you may need to exempt yourself completely from the decision
making process.

If you do allow your personal interests to influence decisions you make or how you do your job, it can amount to misconduct and attract disciplinary proceedings. Even if you do act properly, an undeclared confl ict of interest can cause embarrassment to you and to MEPA. It is your duty
to declare a potential confl ict. MEPA would view a failure to declare a potential confl ict very seriously.


MEPA’s customers include the government, boards and councils, the business community, other agencies, and any member of the public who does business with us. MEPA expects its employees and appointees to observe high standards of ethical behaviour and to maintain public confi dence in the integrity of the organisation. In addition to observing the Code of Ethics, MEPA expects everyone to: minimise costs – both to MEPA and to its trading partners; to meet public interest and accountability standards; and to seek value for money for the taxpayer.

MEPA looks to its customers to:
• respect MEPA employees’ and appointees’ obligations;
• avoid seeking undue influence or favouritism;
• not engage in any collusive and unfair practices;

MEPA looks to its employees and appointees to:
• disclose confl icts of interest;
• prevent unauthorised release of privileged information;
• provide accurate and reliable information when required; and
• assist MEPA in identifying, investigating and eradicating improper practices.

In line with these principles, the guidelines in Appendix 1 – Pre and Post decision negotiations with clients are of particular importance.

The following are some common elements where specific standards apply.
• You can accept unsolicited gifts or benefits of an inconsequential or trivial nature.
• You must not invite or accept gifts which may compromise the professional relationship.
• You can accept prizes won as a result of conducting offi cial business but the prizes become the property of the MEPA. Official gifts (e.g. from visiting delegations) become the property of MEPA.
• You cannot accept discounts or free services, goods or club memberships that have been
made available only to you. (If they are generally available to people such as public servants or
employees of MEPA, then they may be accepted). You cannot accept free offers for personal travel or accommodation.
• You should avoid accepting invitations from MEPA’s customers to functions. You should only
accept to attend a particular function where your presence does not imply an inappropriate, close or preferred relationship.
• If you believe you have been offered an improper inducement to infl uence a decision or duty,
you should immediately draw the facts to the attention of the Director or Chairman.

MEPA recognises that employees involved in local community or sporting organisations may
sometimes be required to attend functions as a representative of that organisation. In those cases you should follow the confl ict of interest guidelines and advise your manager of why you are attending a function that would not normally be appropriate for you to attend as a MEPA employee.

The same regard to potential conflict of interest arising from the above situations applies also to
appointees whose engagement with MEPA is only on a part-time basis.


MEPA has a significant role in considering development applications. Customers should be
treated equally to avoid the perception that MEPA could unduly favour one person over another.
MEPA must be careful to ensure that dealings with Government Departments and Agencies are, and are seen to be, beyond reproach, and that these are treated the same as any other customer.
On some occasions there may be a perceived or actual confl ict of interest between the objectives
of MEPA and other Government entities. Such cases should be drawn to the attention of senior
management for resolution. The other Government agencies that are MEPA’s customers work within the same public accountability framework as we do. We must not place them in compromising positions and we must protect their interests by maintaining our integrity and using procedures that protect them from criticism.

Not everyone will agree with every MEPA decision. Unfortunately, sometimes claims of biased or unethical behaviour are made as a tactic to seek a change in the decision. This does not help the long term relationship between MEPA and its customers. MEPA strives to make every decision on its merits. It has internal procedures to manage confl ict of interest and, through the Code of Ethics and this document, very clear guidelines on what is ethical and fair. Society should recognise and respect that situation.

Making a decision is integral to fulfi lling MEPA’s responsibilities. All decision-making by employees and appointees must be ethical and responsible, whether you are exercising a statutory power or an administrative discretion, or whether the decision affects a corporation, a member of the public or another staff member. In most situations, a person affected by a decision may choose to request a statement of reasons for that decision.

When you make a decision always:
• document it suffi ciently, so that the reasons for it are clear and identifi able after the event; and
• use the documented reasons to check yourself that you have been fair and that you have only
had regard to relevant considerations.

The legal responsibility of appointees carries important responsibilities. Most importantly, you
must make your own decision as statutory decision-maker or delegate. However, to do this you must:
• adopt reports, research or briefing papers prepared by MEPA offi cials or consultants;
• consult and take advice from technical staff or policy-makers, but you must not act on the
direction of any other person;
• have regard to MEPA regulations, policies and guidelines;
• all decisions must be well documented;
• refrain from expressing opinions which may indicate that you have made up your mind before
the decision-making meeting.

Appendix 3 and 4 of this document refer in some detail to the documentation of a decision which goes contrary to the recommendations made by the Case Officer and to conduct during a site visit. Appendix 5 clearly outlines the manner of public participation permitted during sittings in public.

Appointees are accountable for their decisions, but MEPA offi cials have their own obligations in
the process leading up to the decision. Appendix 2 outlines clearly the obligations of the Offi cers’
reports. You can help by ensuring that:
• your advice to the decision-maker is clear, comprehensive and unbiased;
• you implement someone else’s decision conscientiously and effectively, even if you do
not agree with it; and
• when you are not part of the process, your questions or unsolicited advice are not misconstrued as an attempt to improperly infl uence the decision- maker.

You must take account of:
• the legislation – which defines what decisions can be made, how, and by whom;
• the facts – the actual situation to which the legislation is being applied; and
• the MEPA policy – the decisions of the Government and the MEPA Board that provide
guidance and more detail on how the legislation should be interpreted.

It is not possible to have a rule for every situation. Sometimes different rules, policies or guidelines can appear to conflict. If you have difficulty in applying these guidelines, or if it is not immediately clear what you should do, seek advice from your manager. If there is no appropriate rule, or if there is a contradiction:
• consider if you were on the receiving end of the decision;
• could you adequately defend your actions to your manager, the Government and the public;
• will it create a precedent;
• will it create expectations or put you under future obligations; and
• is it fair to MEPA, the customer, the community and yourself?

These points should be considered as guidelines in the formulation of policy or in the assessment of cases on their merits. While all decisions involve some element of risk, the public does not expect that its public sector will adopt higher risk or speculative strategies. In policy formulation exercises and other decisions there is a particular need to consciously manage the assessment of the risk and the implications of the decision in a more formal manner. In all decisions, your over-riding objective should be to ensure that what you do is:
• right for MEPA’s clients, society at large and the organisation;
• ethical; and
• consistent with existing regulations and policy guidelines

The steps involved require you to ask:
• what is the potential effect of the decision?
• will it break the rules or go against established strategies?
• can risks be addressed?
• have all stakeholders been identified?
• is it clear to all parties what their responsibilities are?
• is it legal, ethical and fair?
• is there any confl ict of interest?
• is it prudent?
• would the public perceive it as honest?
• have you carried out a competent consultation exercise?


You are required to obtain approval before engaging in part-time employment outside the Authority.

However, there are some forms of employment that could create a perception of confl ict of interest—for example, working for a person or organisation that deals regularly with MEPA or is subject to its regulatory powers. MEPA approval will not be given to outside employment in such circumstances, nor will it normally allow employees to use their professional skills outside of MEPA on a fee for service basis.

Professional MEPA employees providing services for free to friends or community organisations, must adhere to the conflict of interest guidelines in the Code of Ethics. Specifi c care is required if:
• the services relate to material to be submitted to MEPA; or
• association of your name with the output could imply (unofficial) MEPA endorsement.

Examples of this include drafting plans or specifi cations, assisting with development applications, supervising activities by voluntary groups etc. Approval for such activities should not be assumed or anticipated.

There is no restriction on employees moving from position to position within Government or outside of government employment. Generally you can freely use the skills, knowledge or experience gained in the course of your employment.
There is one main exception to this:
• you cannot freely use confi dential information in a subsequent position of employment. It is not ethically correct to disclose offi cial information without the proper authority and this obligation continues after you leave the public sector. This can be interpreted as a criminal offence.


Following established procedures safeguards you, the client and the Authority. Always ensure that you:
• operate within your authority;
• follow any relevant legislation and professional standards;
• maintain adequate control over assets, revenue and expenditure;
• do not create inappropriate precedents;
•upport MEPA’s corporate plans and directives; and
• keep to your delegated limits for finance and personnel functions.

Every situation we deal with involves some risks.
Assess the risks:
• what can go wrong?
• how likely is it to go wrong?
• how severe will the impact be if it goes wrong?
• is the risk worth the potential benefit?

Look for ways to minimise the risks. What are the risks, costs and benefi ts of alternative
actions? Consider the costs and benefi ts of extra controls, extra consultation, extra clauses in the contract, and transferring the risk. Management controls are an essential element of good business and administration. Effective controls can be a combination of:
• separation of duties — no one person carries out a sensitive process from start to fi nish;
• accountability — one person is responsible for ensuring that a process works correctly; and
• management review — compare targets and actuals, check that independent reconciliations
are performed, monitor and assess how well controls and processes are working.

Whilst it is not possible to estimate a risk precisely, analysis that will withstand scrutiny is required. The more serious the consequences if the risk becomes a reality, the more detailed and considered the analysis should be. Quantifying risks, expected gains and possible losses requires judgment. With authority comes accountability for decisions. Be sure to document your decision –the more signifi cant the decision, the more formal the documentation should be.

In order to protect against any adverse criticism later, it is very helpful to have made adequate notes of your deliberations. This shows what you took into consideration and how the risks and potential gains and losses were viewed at the time. So keep appropriate records.

MEPA assumes that employees want to act ethically and these guidelines are intended to
assist them in doing so. Nevertheless, employees are accountable for their actions. MEPA accepts that once in a while mistakes can happen. If you do make a mistake, it is important that you draw it to your manager’s attention so that it can be fixed. If you can demonstrate that you have acted appropriately and within the rules, then you should not be penalised. However, it is your responsibility to learn from and not to repeat mistakes and, where possible, alert others to the pitfalls before they make the same mistake. Managers must be alert and ready to support and assist members of staff who have made a mistake. The cost of avoiding risk and responsibility can be much more than the cost of the occasional mistake. If you can demonstrate you have conscientiously applied these organisation’s guidelines, MEPA will accept, support and defend your actions.

Remember that deciding to do nothing may be the riskiest option of all.


1.1 Discussions between an applicant and the Authority’s offi cers, prior to the submission of an application can be of considerable benefi t to both parties and is encouraged. Continued discussions and negotiations between these parties, after the submission of proposals, is a common and important facet of the planning process. However, they should take place within clear guidelines.

1.2 Pre or post application discussions or negotiations shall be conducted in accordance with the following guidelines:

1.2.1 It should always be made clear at the outset that the discussions will not bind the Authority to making a particular and impartial decision and that any views expressed are those of the offi cer only, provisional and impartial. It should be made amply clear that any advice given is without prejudice. There is always the possibility of new regulations or changes in legislation or policy that might be brought into effect during the processing of the application.

Advice should be consistent and based upon approved plans and policies and other material planning and environmental considerations. In general, there should be no signifi cant difference of interpretation of policies between offi cers. If this arises, Para 3.4 should apply.

1.2.3 A written record of the meeting should be made and endorsed by the parties attending the meeting.
Two or more offi cers should attend potentially contentious meetings.

Should there be occasions when Chairpersons are involved in meetings with applicants/objectors, it should be part of a structured arrangement with offi cers, including a case offi cer. Appointees need to preserve their role as impartial decision-makers.


Officers’ written reports to committee shall be accurate, clear and concise and provide all relevant information. They should describe the proposal, cover consultations and other representations, present a reasoned planning assessment of the proposal and a clear, justifi ed written recommendation representing the combined views of the Planning and Environment Directorates.

2.2 Oral reports should be extremely rare and carefully minuted when they do occur and this should be mainly due to late representations.

2.3 The Directorates may, from time to time feel, that they need to inform the decision making bodies of developments occurring in the formulation of policies or about development proposals in the pipeline.

Informal briefings to update the decision making bodies may be held.


3.1 Members shall recognise that the law requires that decisions should be taken in accordance with the approved Development Plans, approved planning policies and having regard to other material planning considerations.

3.2 Where the committee is minded to refuse a planning application contrary to the planning offi cer’s recommendation, a fi nal decision on the application shall be deferred until a later meeting to allow the Architect time to respond to the draft reasons for refusal.

3.3 This deferral of the decision will allow time for confi rmation that clear and convincing reasons for overturning of the application can be made, based on material planning considerations if necessary seeking the offi cer’s advice.

3.4 Where the committee resolves to overturn the planning offi cer’s recommendation, agreement shall be reached at the meeting on the planning reasons justifying the intention. These reasons should be clear and convincing and shall be minuted in full without cross reference to minutes or other documents on file before being passed on to the DC-DCC liason team.


4.1 The case offi cer shall seek to identify in advance those applications which most obviously justify a site visit.

4.2 A site visit may be held where a proposal is contentious or particularly complex, the impact is difficult to visualize or assess from the plans and supporting information or there would otherwise be a substantial benefi t from a visit because of the scale or nature of the proposal.

The applicant, objectors and other interested parties shall not be permitted to participate in the site visit meeting, other than in exceptional circumstances and where equal representation is allowed to all parties.

It is being proposed in the MEPA PROPOSALS OF REFORM document that the Reconsideration phase of the Development Control Process will be eliminated, while greater access to make representations and hold meetings with the Directorates will be given to the public during the pre-decision stage. The Right to Appeal in front of the Planning Appeals Board is also to be broadened.

Since it is envisaged that the proposals of the reform will take time to be decided upon and
implemented, the following guidelines are being proposed as an interim measure to cater for the
circumstances as they are at present.

If the proposal to eliminate the Reconsideration Phase is accepted by Government, the conditions currently applicable to that phase shall be deemed to regulate the only decision phase of the Authority’s committees.


At the first decision stage, the law permits the public to speak only at the discretion of the Chairman. During the Reconsideration stage the public can speak at the Committee. If there is more than one representee for the parties involved (applicant/objectors), members of the public may be asked to nominate a spokesperson to address the Committee. Speaking at the Committee supplements and does not replace written comments.

Persons wishing to speak should always put their views in writing before the Committee meeting.


Speakers should confine their comments to matters relevant to the planning application. The following is a brief summary of matters which would not/will not influence a decision on whether to grant planning permission.
• Civil disputes between neighbours
• Alleged increase or decrease in property values
• Loss of a private view
• A developer’s character, morals, motives or financial circumstances
• Restrictive covenants

The Chairman reserves the right to disallow any representation which in his or her opinion is improper, irrelevant, repetitious or otherwise objectionable.

If new information is introduced after the closure of the DPAR, the Chairman shall invite the
Committee to consider the application on the basis of existing information or defer the decision to allow the directorates time to assess the new information.

No negotiations will be allowed at Committee stage.


Where necessary a Planning Offi cer will introduce the application, provide any recent information not included in the written report and provide a verbal recommendation. The Chairman will then ask the speaker to make his/her comments. The Chairman has to be very precise in time keeping and will ask the speaker to stop when the allotted time has expired.
Speakers and Members of the Committee cannot interrupt or cross-examine each other. The Officer or Member may comment on the facts presented by a speaker. Such comments should always be addressed to the Chairperson and never directly to the speaker.

Members of the public will not be allowed to address the Committee once the Members’ debate
has started unless specifi cally requested to do so by the Chairperson.


The Officer’s Report should be publicly available five (5) clear working days before the Committee meeting.


Speaking at the Committee supplements and does not replace written comments. Persons wishing to speak should always put their views in writing before the Committee meeting.

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