The Malta Environment & Planning Authority (MEPA), through the implementation of e-applications, has heralded in a new era in land use planning and environment. The e-application system that is accessed on www.mepa.gov.mt, is more than just technology, it brings together different platforms and technologies into one homogeneous system which allows clients to view application details, submit and pay for applications online and send/receive correspondence digitally thus increasing participation, efficiency and transparency.
Introducing the system and the new services it will render, MEPA chairman Mr Andrew Calleja said "the whole system has managed to bring together very different technologies and systems through one coherent user-friendly interface addressing one of the most important processes within the Maltese Islands." Mr Calleja also pointed out that "The system has impacted MEPA in different ways, primarily its cost efficiency through the reduction of paper use and less use of mail services has already been registered. Reconciliation of fees received for applications has been drastically improved and human resources which were fully dedicated to this have now been redeployed more efficiently."
The system, which for security reasons, requires all users to have an e-ID, will give different levels of accessibility and coverage. Applicants can have an online detailed status of their application and can opt to receive electronic communication thus reducing waiting times. Architects have the full range of services at their disposal. The system cuts into the time taken up by file movements in different sections and allows case officers and consulting bodies parallel case processing and consultations. This increases efficiency and reduces turn around times. Availability of full electronic data, including plans and file 'minutes' has reduced dependency on the physical file with the result that the process is now more streamlined and a misplaced paper file is no longer an issue.
Minister for Rural Affairs and the Environment Perit George Pullicino when commenting on the service said that "Architects now have an indispensable tool which will manage to make their life much easier and increase their efficiency" but most of all he stressed that "this system will increase public participation and transparency in such sensitive processes." He stressed that public participation will be strengthened even further since the system allows any architect registered with the Authority to access the details of an application, and not just the architect related to a particular application.
e-applications is one of the latest and perhaps most ambitious e-Government initiatives undertaken to date. It is the latest and most innovative link in a chain of services emanating from a culture where the citizen's needs are paramount. It also translates in savings in terms of time and resources in processing development applications and improves the quality and efficiency of service.
Adding to this Minister for Industry, Investment and Information Technology Dr Austin Gatt said that "the launch of this service is a testimony to Government's continued commitment to deliver added customer value when the public deals and transacts with Government." He also added that " this is all part of an evolutionary process and is the reflection of a constantly evolving customer centric programme that aims to provide the Maltese Public with one of the most sophisticated e-Government services available anywhere in Europe."
Although the system has been in use for a relatively short period of time, it has already managed to obtain recognition both locally and internationally. In fact it was voted the best e-business solution for 2007 by the Computer Society of Malta. Also it was awarded a 'Special Achievement in GIS' at the 2006 ESRI International User Conference and awarded the ePractice.eu Good Practice label for 2007, based on the recommendation from the 2007 European eGovernment Awards consortium.