LCA launches its first Good Practice Guide

The Association of Local Councils launched its first Good Practice Guide on Monday 13th September 2021 – Electric Vehicle Public Infrastructure. 

This document is one of the twenty-four documents the Local Councils’ Association, the assistance of several experts, is publishing under ‘ResidentFirst’, a multi-year project in partnership with the Local Councils.  ResidentFirst focuses on Sustainable mobility, Open Spaces, Smart Cities and Green Environments, further identifying how these pillars may improve the quality of life of our residents in their respective localities. 

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Sustainable Transport

The means of transport we use are responsible for a quarter of the carbon emissions generated in the world. Carbon is a gas which contributes to climate change, and more than three quarters of it is generated on our roads. This means that the cars and trucks that we use every day to deliver our goods and to go from one place to another are leaving a significant negative impact on our air quality.  

It is estimated that the number of cars around the world is at around 1.3 billion, and this is anticipated to continue to rise to 2 billion by the year 2050. The same can be said for the demand in the transport of goods, which is expected to grow to three times current levels by the same year. 

Therefore, the challenge that we must address is how we are going to meet this demand for transport in the most sustainable way possible. Urban mobility is crucial in all of this. This is because, together, we need to find new solutions that will lead to a dramatic decrease in the impact of transport on the environment that we live in every day.     

If one had to carry out research on the transportation of goods in our towns, one would find that many vehicles very often have goods compartments that are not entirely full, or even have more empty space than used space. In addition, a lot of the time, these vehicles are stationary. Therefore, it is important that a serious study is done, together with all the relevant stakeholders, so that the potential of this method of transport is maximised, as well as to think of better ways in which goods can be transported, with less impact, and with more efficiency.

There are various things we can do as individuals to reduce this negative impact. We can start by avoiding the use of cars, where that is possible. This means becoming more accustomed to virtual meetings in our life, making more use of bikes and scooters, and even walking. Making more frequent use of public transport, or sharing a taxi ride with different people. If you had to take a look at the other vehicles sharing the road with you, or when stopping in traffic, more often than not you are unlikely to find more than one person in the car travelling alongside you. You will generally be hard pressed to find a car that has three or four persons in it. This results in a stuation where the average occupancy for each vehicle on our roads does not exceed one and a half passengers. This is very low when we all know that each vehicle can carry four people. With a bit of effort, and arrangements with colleagues, we can easily reduce two or three cars for each vehicle on the road.  

Another thing that we could do when travelling by car is to use smaller vehicles. Ones that consume less fuel, that have less emissions, and which help in reducing the amount of traffic on the roads. Obviously, we can go one step further and use hybrid cars or electric cars.

When it comes to online shopping, as consumers, we can choose to not opt for urgent or expedited shipping, and thus allow time for them to be delivered along with other products coming to the same destination. Certain online sellers offer the option of delivery to collection points, so that there is less risk of failed delivery when you are not home, and thus avoiding unnecessary extra trips. Decisions like these, although small, can also make a big difference. 

The use of alternative means of transport is sustainable in every way: good for our health and our pockets
Cleaner means of transport help to improve air quality in our localities.
Infrastructure for walking and cycling is crucial to encourage more people to make use of these sustainable means of transport and to reduce the impact of pollution in our localities.

Article by Mario Fava – President of the Local Councils’ Association

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What should you do if you believe you were scammed?

If you believe that you have uncovered a scam or you were the target victim of one, ĠEMMA advises you to report this. Do not let the scammer get away with it. Remember that there are vulnerable people who may not have the knowledge you have and may be at a high risk of being scammed unless the scam is stopped.

The following are entities to whom you may wish to make the report:

Cyber Crime Unit at the Malta Police Force

You will find the website of the Cyber Crime Unit on this URL: pulizija.gov.mt/en/police-force/police-sections/Pages/Cyber-Crime-Unit.aspx.

You can contact the Unit as follows:Online:computer.crime@gov.mt; telephone: +356 2294 2231/2.

In person:  Call or visit any Police District station and lodge a report.  The District Police Officer will request the assistance of a member from the Cyber Crime Unit as required.

Your bank

If you are the victim of a debit or credit card fraud, contact your bank immediately. Do the same if you lose your debit or credit card.

The revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) establishes that if you, as a client of a bank, have lost or had your debit or credit card stolen, and it transpires that a fraudulent transaction has occurred after you notified your bank of the loss of your card, you are only liable to pay a maximum of EUR 50.

It is, however, important to note that you will not be entitled to any refund for losses relating to any unauthorised payment transaction if you have incurred such losses by acting fraudulently or by failing to fulfil your obligations with intent or gross negligence.

Complaints and Conciliation Directorate at the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority

You will find the website of the Complaints and Conciliation Directorate on this URL:www.mccaa.org.mt/Section/Content?contentId=1193.  You can contact the centre as follows:  online:info@mccaa.org.mt; submission of an online form: mccaa.org.mt/home/complaint; freephone:356 8007 4400; and in person as follows: Mizzi House, National Road, Blata l-Bajda, Gozo: Elizabeth Street, Xewkija, Gozo

ĠEMMA has on 21st June 2021 signed a strategic partnership with the Local Councils Association.  Both ĠEMMA and the eSkills Malta Foundation are working the Association so that come October 2021, monthly public fora are held on scams and fraud in local communities.

Article prepared by ĠEMMA (within the Ministry of Social Justice and Solidarity, the Family and Children’s Rights)

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The 10 Commandments to protect yourself against scams and fraud

ĠEMMA strongly advises you that you follow these 10 Commandments religiously at all times to protect yourself from scams and fraud:

01Watch out for scams.   Scammers target you anytime, anywhere, anyhow.
02Do not respond.   Ignore suspicious emails, letters, house visits, phones calls or SMS messages – press ‘delete’, throw them out, shut the door, or just hang up.
03Do not agree to an offer straightaway.   Do your research and seek independent advice if it involves significant money, time or commitment, and get the offer in writing
04Ask yourself who you are really dealing with.   Scammers pose as people or organisations that you know and trust.
05Do not let scammers push your buttons.   Scammers will play on your emotions to get what they want, including adopting a personal touch. Alternatively, they seek to rush you into making a quick decision before you look into it. Remember there are no guaranteed get-rich-quick schemes!
06Keep your computer secure.   Always update your firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and buy only from a verified source.
07Only pay online using a secure payment service.   Look for a URL starting with ‘https’ and a closed padlock symbol.
08Do not hand over money and information to someone you do not know and trust.   Any request for payment by an unusual method such as wire transfers, reloadable cards, or gift cards that are nearly impossible to reverse or track is a tell-tale sign that it is part of a scam. And if you do hand money … it is rare to recover
09Protect your identity.   Your personal details are private and invaluable. Keep them that way and away from scammers.
10If you spot a scam, spread the word.   Tell your family and friends, and report it to: computer.crime@gov.mt.

In addition to these 10 Commandments, keep in mind the following:

  • It is NOT always true that companies, businesses and enterprises are always legitimate. Scammers can easily pretend to have approval and registrations when in fact they do not.
  • It is NOT always true that all websites are legitimate. It is easy and cheap to set up a website. And an enterprise’s website can be easily copied by scammers who will want to trick you into believing it to be genuine.
  • It is NOT always true that scams involve large amounts of money. Sometimes scammers target many people and try to get a small amount of money from each person.
  • It is NOT always true that scams are always about money. Some scams are aimed at stealing personal information from you.

Last year, ĠEMMA (www.gemma.gov.mt) and the eSkills Malta Foundation (https://eskills.org.mt) signed a strategic partnership to disseminate knowledge on digital financial capability.  Fraud and scams is such one digital financial capability.  Jointly we have issued 4 e-books on scams and fraud (https://gemma.gov.mt/ebook-download-page/) and Infographics (https://gemma.gov.mt/resources/infographics/) on tips of how to protect yourself with regard to over 30 different scams and frauds. 

ĠEMMA has on 21st June 2021 signed a strategic partnership with the Local Councils Association.  Both ĠEMMA and the eSkills Malta Foundation are working the Association so that come Octover 2021, monthly public fora are held on scams and fraud in local communities.

Article prepared by ĠEMMA (within the Ministry of Social Justice and Solidarity, the Family and Children’s Rights)

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Do you know how a scam works?

Recently we have seen a spate of scams in Malta – including phishing, romance fraud and business email fraud.  News papers have reported that one business lost nearly €90,000 as a result of a business email fraud and over €100,000 have been defrauded from persons scammed by the Maltapost phishing scam.

In summer of last year, ĠEMMA (www.gemma.gov.mt) and the eSkills Malta Foundation (https://eskills.org.mt) signed a strategic partnership to disseminate knowledge on digital financial capability.  Fraud and scams is such one financial capability.  Jointly we have issued 4 e-books on scams and fraud (https://gemma.gov.mt/ebook-download-page/) and Infographics (https://gemma.gov.mt/resources/infographics/) on tips of how to protect yourself with regard to over 30 different scams and frauds.  Both ĠEMMA and the Foundation have been disseminating these over their respective social media channels.

This is the first of 3 articles we are presenting on scams and fraud to make people more aware of what scams and frauds are, basic but important cardinal protection measures one should taken, and what one should do in the event that they realise they are scammed.

Most scams follow the same pattern – understand this pattern and it will be easier to spot. The way a scam works is described here.

The Scammer’s approach:  A scammer will approach you with a story designed to make you believe a lie. S/he targets your emotions and behaviour – a chance to make money, to find a partner, to help somebody in need. Invariably the scammer will dress him/herself as a government official, a company – including branding names you are familiar with, an expert investor, a government official, a lottery officer, a lovely lady.  The scammer will use any one of these approaches:

EmailStill the favoured method. Cheap and a good way to communicate with many persons.
Social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.), Dating sites, Online forumSocial media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.), Dating sites, Online forum
Online shopping, classifieds, and auction sitesThese are used by scammers to trick you, with initial contact often made through reputable and trusted sites or fake websites that look like the real thin
Phone callsCalls are made by scammers to homes and businesses in a wide variety of scams, from threatening tax scams to offers of prizes or ‘help’ with computer viruses
SMSScammers tend to send a whole range of scams, including competition or prize scams.

The scammer’s tools are designed to get you to lower your defences, build trust in the story and act quickly or irrationally and proceed to the final stage – sending the money or providing personal information.  The scammer’s tools include:

  • Creating a sense of urgency so that you will not have the time to think things through and make you react on emotions rather than logic.
  • Similarly, using high pressure sales tactics saying it is a limited offer, that prices will rise, or the market will move and the opportunity will be lost.
  • Having all the hallmarks of a real business using glossy brochures with technical industry jargon backed up with office fronts, call centres and professional websites.
  • Using your personal details to make you believe you have dealt with them before, and make the scam appear legitimate.
  • Creating counterfeit and official-looking documents – documents that appear to have government approval or are filled with legal jargon can give a scam an air of authority.
  • Similarly, using high pressure sales tactics saying it is a limited offer, that prices will rise or the market will move and the opportunity will be lost.
  • Contacting you regularly to build trust and establish a relationship.

Asking for money may be set at the point of contact or after months of careful grooming. Scammers have their preferences for how you send your money. Methods vary: wire transfer, credit / debit card, bank transfer, Bitcoin, etc.

ĠEMMA has on 21st June 2021 signed a strategic partnership with the Local Councils Association.  Both ĠEMMA and the eSkills Malta Foundation are working the Association so that come October 2021, monthly public fora are held on scams and fraud in local communities.

Article prepared by ĠEMMA (within the Ministry of Social Justice and Solidarity, the Family and Children’s Rights)

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Local Councils Association enters into a Strategic Partnership with the Ministry for Social Justice and Solidarity, the Family and Children’s Rights and ĠEMMA on financial capability education

The Ministry for Social Justice and Solidarity, the Family and Children’s Rights and the Local Councils Association today signed a strategic partnership to jointly work together, through ĠEMMA (the government’s financial capability education platform), to improve the financial capability of Maltese and Gozitan residents during life-events, including retirement.  The outcome resulting from this strategic partnership between the Local Councils Association and ĠEMMA is to ensure that people are better informed in matters that affect their finances and thus can make the right decisions that fit their personal circumstances.

Through the Local Councils Association, ĠEMMA will work with regional and local councils to carry out financial capability programmes – which range from budgeting to protection against scams and frauds – within the communities.  ĠEMMA will also make resources – such as videos, handbooks, etc. – on financial capability available to regional and local councils so that these are accessible to persons within the communities from their offices, or as may distributed within the communities.

The Local Councils Association will make its digital resources available to ĠEMMA – including its You Safe portal, Facebook site, the LCA website as well as faciliting partnering between ĠEMMA and respective regional and local councils digital resources – to assist ĠEMMA in broadening its reach with regard to financial capability knowledge and information amongst Maltese and Gozitan residents.

This is the 11th strategic partnership that the Ministry for Social Justice and Solidarity, the Family and Children’s Rights entered on behalf of ĠEMMA with other institutions and bodies.  The other strategic partnerships include the Central Bank of Malta, the University of Malta, BOV, MAPFRE MSV Life, the General Workers Union, the eSkills Malta Foundation, Mental Health Malta, the Malta Chamber of SMEs, and the UĦM Voice of the Workers. 

Dr Michael Falzon, the responsible minister, stated that this strategic relationship between ĠEMMA and the Local Councils Association is a game changer with regard to bringing financial capability knowledge and education closer to Maltese and Gozitans persons.  Through this strategic partnership, ĠEMMA is now able to inculcate financial capability education and knowledge in the heart of local communities.

Mr Mario Fava, the President of the Local Councils Association underlined that the Association is proud of this relationship with ĠEMMA and the Ministry as it allows it to continue to build on previous and current initiatives to build up within Malta’s and Gozo’s communities understanding of money management and planning for one’s future – and thus directly contribute to the financial wellbeing of residents.  Mr Fava stated that the first initiatives between the Association and the regional and local councils and ĠEMMA will be rolled in early autumn of this year.

Mr Mark Musu, the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry, and who is responsible for the stewardship of ĠEMMA, emphasised that building a Malta that is financial capable is a societal objective – one in which government must play a key role, but an objective that a government on its own will not be able to reach.

Mr Musu expressed his satisfaction that the joining up of strategic partners, such as the Local Councils Association with his ministry and ĠEMMA, shows that there is a strong understanding from societal players of the importance of such a joined up approach towards instilling a financial wellbeing in Malta.

The ĠEMMA’s financial capability platform can be viewed at www.gemma.gov.mt.

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Valletta,,Malta,-,September,23,2016:,Auberge,De,Castille,Dates

Good Governance – Local Level

In 2019, 456 Councillors were elected in order to form 68 new Local Councils. This was after the population of every locality in Malta and Gozo voted to appoint their representatives on the local level.

Although we are talking about Local Councils and Councillors, they still have to work and operate responsibly. They need to realise that once they are working with the people’s money, they have to do so with good governance. What is this good governance that we hear so much about?

Good Governance

That one operates within the framework of good governance is something that comes naturally to those who work genuinely and with the best interest of those they represent. This is something obvious, no guidelines are needed for this principle to be embraced. Nonetheless, back in 2008, the Council of Europe embraced the decision of the Council of Ministers, with this decision being taken on 15th October 2007 in Valencia, Spain, where twelve principles for good governance were adopted.

In simpler words, good governance means that there must be responsibility and good conduct in matters related to the public and public management. The twelve guiding principles are:

 

  • Representation and Participation
  • Responsiveness
  • Efficiency
  • Transparency
  • Rule of Law
  • Ethical Conduct
  • Competence and Capacity
  • Innovation and Openness to Change
  • Sustainability and Long-Term Orientation
  • Sound Financial Management
  • Human Rights and Diversity
  • Accountability

This agreement was endorsed by all the member states of the Council of Europe, with the aim of strengthening the will to ensure that this key democratic principle is protected. Let us take a deeper look at the principles that form the basis of this value.

Representation and Participation

The first principle towards good governance is founded on the importance of free participation and an open democratic process. This is a process which must be worked on at the local level of that particular country. At this stage, citizens are the core and the centre of activity because they are directly involved in choosing their representatives. Every man and woman should make their voice heard in this democratic process and nobody should try to deny this fundamental right. This participation is based on freedom of expression. This also holds true for those who might feel less privileged or vulnerable, because in a process such as this, everyone is and should be considered as equal. In this whole process, while the will of the majority is carried out, one must also consider and respect the opinion of the minority.   

Responsiveness

With responsiveness, reference is being made to the way the elected politician has to respond, in a way where the objectives, the rules, the structures and the procedures are adopted in a legitimate manner and as expected by citizens. Excess bureaucracy or reluctance to enact reforms or strategies which are beneficial to the population should not be allowed.

This is particularly true for public service, where we must ensure that this is served and performed. Apart from this, we must also ensure that citizens’ complaints are looked into within an adequate and reasonable amount of time, and that they are given a timely response.

Efficiency

This principle ties well with the prior principle. Efficiency means that there must be results for the objectives that have been agreed upon. This materialises by using the resources available in the best way possible, be they human resources or financial. There should be clear indicators of management so that it is possible to evaluate and measure the efficiency and effectiveness of the services offered. An auditing exercise should be done on a regular basis so that assessments can be made on what can be improved in operational matters.

Transparency

Every decision that is taken must be made within the framework of the regulations and the legal framework within which we are working. We must ensure that every citizen can freely access any type of information. This access must be available whether or not it is mandatory for it to be specified within the same regulations. At the same time, data protection must be ensured as required by law, such as in a process of competition for procurement. This helps foster trust between the Council and the residents because it would be clear to everyone that the intention of the Council is to put the best interests of the citizens at the forefront.

Rule of Law

We have heard a lot about this principle in the last few months, but it is perhaps only few who have managed to explain in a simple manner what these two words mean. Rule of law means that we must have trust in and follow what the law says and what is decided by our Courts. On the other hand, we must ensure that laws are being adopted in the same way for everyone, with impartiality and equality. 

Ethical Conduct

That one behaves ethically is not listed in any law. There is what we call moral, fiscal and political ethics. The three of them carry different weight, but all three have the same importance. The common good must always come before personal interests. Ethical conduct should ensure that there are strong measures in place so as to leave no room for corruption. One must be clear when it comes to conflict of interests. These must be declared from the start and there cannot be any involvement of that person; not in the discussion of the subject, and even more so in the process of decision making.

Competence and Capacity

It is necessary that the abilities of those that have the power to act and bring about change are constantly strengthened. This is so that a superior and up-to-date service is always given. This should lead to the continued motivation of people, especially public officials, to continue improving the service they offer. Practices and methods to assess people’s ability should be maintained, resulting in capabilities that can lead to more efficient results. 

Innovation and Openness to Change

New and efficient solutions are the answer to the problems that our residents frequently present to us. It is crucial that we are innovative in the way that we provide the service asked for, and we must always be open to change. Many times, even in a Local Council, you will find administrations that, due to a certain amount of experience and due to the adoption of the same systems that have always worked well in the past, are resilient to change and the introduction of new methods. A change in the mentality of leadership is not the easiest thing, but we have to ensure that we work in an environment where we are continuously encouraging and promoting the necessary changes. Yesterday’s problems deserve yesterday’s solutions. Today’s problems require a different and more flexible approach.  

Sustainability and Long-Term Orientation

We need to ensure that in the policies we adopt we take into consideration the needs of future generations. The politics we adopt need to look to the future so that we can ensure the sustainability of the locality we reside in. The decisions we take cannot create tension or shift problems from one place to another, because we would be solving today’s problems without looking at what effect our decision will have in the long run. The decisions must be sustainable environmentally and structurally, as well as financially and economically. We need to be proactive and, in consultation with people, see what the needs for the future are. The social fabric must be protected, and most importantly, we must act in ways that guarantee that what is ours today will be enjoyed by those who will come after us. Therefore, we have to shoulder this responsibility and ensure that we act in this regard.     

Sound Financial Management

We need to remember that we are operating with public funds. Therefore, each decision taken on spending needs to be in the best interest for everyone and, above all, to achieve the best result. Changing things just to increase the value of what we’re spending on does not justify the change. Neither is acting to reduce the cost by reducing the services on offer or by offering a mediocre service. Caution should be observed at all times, especially when it comes to decisions that will leave an impact on future generations; for example, borrowing, debt etc. The risks that we take need to be calculated and approved. No spending or borrowing can exceed the income of a Local Council. Therefore, it is crucial that there is a long-term business plan and that this is updated from time to time. The same for the financial estimates of the Council. Here, the question that needs to be made is this; “If this was my money, how would I act?” 

Human Rights and Diversity

In the scope of local regulations, these rights are protected. This is not enough. As a local authority, we need to ensure that these are safeguarded and that they are implemented without any form of discrimination. Participation is necessary in order to be ready to tackle instances where this does not happen. Cultural diversity is an asset for every locality. Therefore, it is crucial that everyone has the opportunity to participate in the locality. This is especially important for those who are the most vulnerable in society. Social inclusion and integration are essential to have strong and tolerant societies. These are principles which should be protected at all times. 

Accountability

Whoever finds themselves in a position to take decisions, whether it is collective or individual, needs to act responsibly when they take these decisions. It is important that every decision taken is backed up by evidence as to why it was decided. This information must be kept so that if there are any enquiries, the information is accessible in order to ensure transparency. There should be, and they exist, ways of how one can fight against decisions that have been taken secretly. These should be transmitted clearly to make them known, and they should be available to the citizen as well as to the competent authorities. 

Conclusion

Without a doubt, if as elected councillors we keep these principles which assure good governance in mind, we will then have assurance that citizens are at the centre of our work. We will also be assured that citizens’ trust in our work will continue to grow and multiply. Participation will also grow and the public will have a sense of belonging in the locality. This sentiment will then help increase the collaboration between the Council and its citizens, and this will automatically result in fewer problems and more collaboration in the broadest sense possible.   

Article by Mario Fava – President of the Local Councils’ Association

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