It is common knowledge that many parts of the government slow down around election time. But a new study by Matthew and Paul Caruana Galizia strongly suggests that election time might actually be the best time to ask for a planning permit – especially if it’s on ODZ land.
The brothers published a report looking into political land corruption at the Planning Authority between the years 1993 to 2016, and found that there was clear government interference in the handing out of permits.
The Caruana Galizia report, entitled ‘Political Land Corruption: Evidence From Malta – the European Union’s smallest Member State‘, was published by Cambridge University Press on Monday 16th October, the day their mother Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered.
Data from 17,729 ODZ applications that the Planning Authority received in those years revealed the extent of possible political corruption in the institution.
- 17,729 ODZ applications between 1993 and March 2016
- 9,194 ODZ applications approved
- 6,310 ODZ applications rejected
The report, which scraped information from the Planning Authority’s website, found a correlation between ODZ permit applications, a high approval rating, and the electoral cycle.
Prior to 2013, ODZ permit approvals were also found to have spiked right before elections. After 2013, the ratio of ODZ permit approvals actually increased.
There’s even a point in 2015 where, according to the data, all ODZ applications were given the green light.
Case officers were unlikely to refuse an ODZ application during election periods. Apart from that, their recommendations would come into conflict with the authority’s board much more often in the run-up to elections than in other times.
It also showed that having a case officer recommend a permit, but the board refusing, had no correlation with the electoral cycle.
Their conclusion was that, rather than some form of bribery or gift giving, the Planning Authority was suffering from political corruption. They felt that the authority’s board is not independent of the government, and that there was government interference in decisions.
Patterns suggested that indeed, permits were granted in exchange for partisan support in elections.
The Caruana Galizia brothers end by recommending that the Planning Authority be given more independence, that more transparency in donations to politicians or political parties is needed, as well as allowing audits or the public to scrutinise all permit applications throughout the year.