11 DECEMBER 2002
By Matthew Vella
In its run-up to EU accession, Maltas obligations to implement EU environmental legislation have already amassed an estimated Lm1,548,000 in projected administrative capacity-building.
The exercise in recruiting new staff for the implementation of environmental legislation and for continued environmental surveillance has resulted in the need for new recruits in several ministries and government agencies. A total of 54 new recruits are set to be added to the public services agencies at the service of environmental protection.
The EUs pressure on the Maltese authorities to increase their administrative capacity had already been highly emphasized in the EU report on Malta in October of this year. The EU report highlighted several areas in which Maltas institutional capabilities are limited and have to be upgraded.
Consequently, critics who have taken umbrage over the EUs criticism of Maltas institutional limitations, asked whether such an expensive exercise would conflict with Governments drive to downsize the public sector.
When the EU report was first released in October, OPM sources told The Malta Financial and Business Times that "the institutional building referred to does not necessarily mean an expansion in the Public Service, but a re-allocation and re-organisation of resources where they are required.
"It has long been government policy to continuously strengthen its administrative capacity. This does not necessarily mean recruiting more staff, although at professional and managerial level, Government is not overstaffed at all."
Maltas administrative capacity in adopting and implementing EU legislation was highly prioritised in the EU report on Malta. The report had said that in the field of the environment, Malta had already started an important reshaping of its environmental administrative structures through the creation of MEPA.
The report stated an urgent need for a strengthening of the countrys implementation of the EC environmental acquis.
It said that despite the recruitment of environment inspectors and officers over the past year, MEPA still faced considerable challenges and required considerable strengthening in staff, particularly in the fields of inspection and permitting. It now seems that these plans are being put into action.
The project for funding the capacity-building under the EUs 2002 pre-accession programme was submitted by the Home Affairs and Environment Ministry. The objective is to set up structures that will facilitate the enforcement of the EUs environmental laws.
This will include aiding the structure of the following agencies and departments in carrying out the full implementation of the EUs environmental laws. These are the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, the Civil Protection Department, the Environmental Protection Department, the Drainage Department, the Agriculture Department, the Health Ministry, the Environment Health Department, waste management and nuclear safety.
MEPA will be absorbing the highest number of recruits with 15 new additions, so far estimated to cost the government Lm540,000 in training, capital and recurrent costs.