Less than half of the €400,000 which the environment watchdog has imposed in daily fines for various breaches reported between 2016 and this year have been settled, with the bulk of the pending payments resulting from fines issued this year. Furthermore, from an analysis of the unpaid fines it transpires that only a handful are due to a pending appeal with no explanation available for the remaining balance.

Details on the enforcement by the Environment and Resources Authority were divulged in parliament by Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia in reply to a question from Opposition MP Joe Ellis. The statistic distinguishes between daily fines and administrative fines (imposed as a lump sum) which are regulated by different laws.

Though the data covers a six-year period from 2016 up to 22nd November 2021, the bulk of the fines were issued from 2018 onwards. According to the environment minister this is due to the fact that the relevant legislation outlining the imposition of daily fines was only enacted in 2018. 

In this respect the value of the 63 daily fines (which can reach €100 per day) issued in Malta during the period under review is of €403,245. A total of 45 were paid accounting to €188,730 or 47% of the total amount which was due. Consequently, ERA is still owed €214,515 of which €206,490 were daily fines issued in 2021. Only four of the 18 unpaid daily fines are pending due to appeal.

As for Gozo, ERA issued just five daily fines amounting to €1,370 in daily fines of which only two have been paid. The bulk of the pending amount which is €675 were issued this year and included cases in which the contravener is contesting the penalty before the Environment Planning Review Tribunal.

Though the information tabled in parliament also includes a detailed breakdown of administrative fines, no details whatsoever were published on the amounts involved, even though this information was requested by the Opposition MP.

From the scant information available it transpires that in Malta between 2016 and November this year 603 administrative fines were issued of which 467 have been paid. With the exception of 17 unpaid fines which are pending due to an appeal, no explanation was given on the reason why the amounts due have not been settled by the other contraveners.

As for Gozo, 86 of the 104 administrative fines issued have been paid. Just one of the 18 unpaid fines is under appeal, meaning that the remaining 17 unpaid fines are yet to be settled.

Another striking trend from the data tabled in parliament is that only two fines were issued in the whole of 2016 and 2017. On the other hand, in 2020, no less than 321 administrative fines were issued of which 70 are unpaid.

Established in 2015 following the split of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, ERA has often been criticised for being a Cinderella when compared to the planning watchdog. Such evaluation stems from the relatively limited resources and the lack of weight which the environment watchdog has in decisions concerning controversial developments.