Freedom of Information

The Freedom of Information Act
 
The Freedom of Information Act (Cap.496) aims to establish a right to information held by public authorities in order to further promote accountability and transparency in Government.
 
In terms of Article 17(1) of the Freedom of Information Act, every relevant public authority shall publish information describing the authority’s structure, functions and responsibilities together with a general description of the categories of documents held  and a description of all manuals and similar types of documents which contain policies, principles, rules or guidelines in accordance with which decisions or recommendations are made in respect of members of the public, as well as a statement of information that needs to be available to members of the public who wish to obtain access to official documents from the public authority.
 
The Freedom of Information Act came into force on 1st September 2012.
 
Eligible persons are entitled to submit Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to all established Public Authorities, including the Economic Policy Department, within the Ministry for Finance. The requests have to be in written format on prescribed forms and have to be delivered to an office of the Public Authority, either electronically - by email or through the portal www.foi.gov.mt - or manually (by hand or by post).
 
Directorate General – Economic Policy Department
 
The Economic Policy Department (EPD) provides Government with internal expert advice and assistance in the formulation of economic policy and the management of economic activity, with the aim of attaining the Government’s overall objectives of economic growth and development, high employment and low inflation. Attention is devoted towards the achievement of a stable macroeconomic framework, also by attaining an appropriate fiscal policy. Furthermore, the EPD assists in the formulation of policy in areas which are crucial to Malta’s economic development including sustainable growth, productivity and competitiveness, financial stability, labour market, investment, tourism, education, creativity,innovation and the environment. Within this context, the EPD provides the Government with the relevant technical input, so that the implementation of policy measures is done within the framework of Malta’s economic developmental goals.
 
The Department also provides internal technical advice and assistance to the Government on international economic/trade issues. Through its participation in Commission Working Parties and Trade Policy Committee formations, the Department monitors and advises on the economic/financial impact of issues and strategies concerning the European Union’s (EU) Common Commercial Policy. Furthermore, the Department assists Government by providing economic analysis of policy issues emanating from Malta’s participation in a host of international, regional, bilateral and multilateral institutions. The EPD also provides support to other government entities whose area of activity may be affected by EU initiatives with
third countries in the area of international trade and investment.
 
The Economic Policy Department consists of the following four directorates: 
 
The Economic Strategy Directorate provides Government with expert advice and assistance in the formulation of economic policy particularly in relation to macroeconomic conditions, forecasting, public finances, industrial strategy and the EU’s multi annual financial framework. As part of its work programme the Directorate is responsible to maintain its short-term forecasting model and produce bi-annual economic forecasts. The macroeconomic forecasts provide the basis for economically-sensitive fiscal projections which are submitted to the Budget Affairs Division in preparation for the bi-annual budgetary forecasts. The Directorate participates in the Economic and Financial Committee Alternates meetings primarily dealing with fiscal policy making at EU and Eurogroup level in the context of the Stability and Growth Pact. The Directorate also provides inputs to multilateral organisations and agencies such as the European Commission, the IMF and various rating agencies. It also acts as the main interface between the Ministry for Finance and the Malta Fiscal Advisory Council.
  
The Taxation and Benefits Policy Analysis Directorate (Director Vacant): The main purpose of the Taxation and Benefits Policy Analysis Directorate is to provide leadership in matters concerning structural economic matters, both locally and in European fora, with an enhanced focus on tax and benefit policy as well as the estimation of the economic and fiscal impact of proposed budget measures. 
 
The main objective of this Directorate is to monitor and examine the tax system, and propose changes to meet Government policy objectives in the areas of direct and indirect taxation. In addition, the Directorate monitors and examines public expenditure, and proposes changes to meet Government policy objectives through the development of appropriate benchmarks with a view to measure performance. The Directorate also estimates the financial impact of specific budget measures promoting reforms in the period leading to the Budget. The Taxation and Benefits Policy Analysis Directorate also contributes to the Ministerial coordination effort involved in drafting the National Reform Programme (NRP) and monitors such elements of the Country Specific Recommendations under the responsibility of the Ministry for Finance. The Directorate applies quantitative techniques to estimate the impact of specific policy measures e.g. the QUEST model for the purposes of the NRP. In addition, EUROMOD, a tax-benefit model, is used to simulate the distributional impact of budget measures.
 
Another main objective of this Directorate is to provide input in modelling exercises underpinning the state of the pension system in Malta, in particular through the use of the PROST model. Also, it contributes to drawing Malta's position on structural economic issues in priority areas in technical working groups under the Economic Policy Committee as well as technical working groups in issues of economic relevance reported to other Ministries, in particular with respect to the reform of social security and labour market developments. The Directorate monitors also, and examines the state of competitiveness of the Maltese economy.
  
The Financial Policy Analysis Directorate’s main purpose is to provide leadership in matters concerning financial affairs especially policy and legislative initiatives related to the financial sector and the monitoring of financial conditions, whilst contributing to the maintenance of financial and economic stability, identification and management of related potential risks as well as assessment of implications to Government and public finance stemming from the financial sector.  
 
One of the main objectives of the Directorate is to oversee policy and legislation on the regulation of the financial sector, particularly those stemming from initiatives within the scope of the EU Financial Union and which also comprise proposals under the Banking Union and the Capital Markets Union.
 
The Directorate also has the objective of monitoring the financial conditions in the economy from a macro-prudential perspective in support of the other national agencies involved. The Financial Policy Analysis Directorate represents Government, and where applicable assist its representatives, with/on inter-agency initiatives on matters relating to banking and financial sector supervision, assessment, risk and stress-testing, including the overview and, where appropriate, the design of indicators based dashboard/s as well as in the development of domestic frameworks for financial stability, crisis management and the use of stabilisation
tools.
 
The Financial Policy Analysis Directorate represents Malta’s interests at EU level in relation to financial services issues while promoting measures at an EU and international level to encourage growth and employment, including through the development of EU policy and legislation on banking and financial sector issues. The Directorate also has the objective of monitoring access to finance for enterprises, assisting the Government to facilitate enterprises’ access to finance and also to monitor and examine the state of the financial industry in Malta. 
 
The International Economic Policy Directorate: The objective of the Directorate is to ensure that the EU trade policy reflects Malta’s economic and social interests.  It analysis the developments and proposals presented within the Trade Policy Committee in order to ensure that the interests and views of Malta are taken into account in the formulation of the EU’s common commercial policy. In particular, it advises, consults and coordinates Malta’s position on matters concerning the EU’s Common Commercial Policy, including all the negotiations of the EU international trade and investment agreements, including the multilateral trade relations under the aegis of the World Trade Organization, plurilateral agreements and bilateral/regional Free Trade Agreements/other trade-related agreements that are negotiated with third countries. Furthermore, it also coordinates the Maltese position in other economic/trade and investment issues pertaining to other international institutions (such as UNCTAD and UNCITRAL).
 
The Directorate provides Malta’s position on international trade and investment policy within the various configurations of the Trade Policy Committee (Full Members, Deputies, Services and Investment and Steel Textiles and Other Industrial Sectors), the Working Party for Trade Questions, the Trade Defence Committee and the Generalised System of Preference Committee outlining Malta’s interests, objectives and priorities in the context of the formulation and implementation of the Common Commercial Policy. The Directorate has the responsibility for the analysis and coordination of the Maltese position on legislative dossiers that have a direct impact on international trade proposed by the Commission. Furthermore, the directorate is also responsible for analysing the proposals by the Commission to implement trade defence measures against dumping and subsidies by third countries together with safeguards against other unfair trading practices by third countries.
 
General description of the categories of documents and manuals held 

The EPD hold documents falling under the following categories

  •   Policy documents and related working documents on themes that fall within the portfolio of the EPD
  •   Studies and reports related to the EPD;
  •   Multilateral and Bilateral International Agreements;
  •   Manuals of procedures, Applications and other documentation related to the 
      financial management, certification of expenditure;
  •    Dossiers related to procurement (Request for Tender, Requests for Quotations and 
       Request for Information);
  •    Explanatory Memoranda, Briefing Notes and Speaking Notes for the Minister and 
        other Government Officials and Instruction Notes for the Permanent Representative
        and other Maltese representatives;
  •    Council Document
  •    Minutes of the meetings and other documents related to the workings of the 
       Alternates Economic and Financial Affairs Committee and Economic Policy
       Committee; 
  •    Draft EU Regulations and Directive;
  •    Documents in connection with the Budgetary Process;
  •    Power point presentations on various aspects of the Maltese economy;
  •    Documents related to the selection process to fill vacant or new positions within EPD;
  •    Forecasts and projections of economic variable and EU budget;
  •    PSMC, related Manuals and Directives
 
 
Submitting a Request / Complaint
  
Eligible Persons: 
 
In order to be eligible to submit FOI requests, a person has to be a resident in Malta and to have been so for a period of at least five years. Such person has to be also either a citizen of Malta or a citizen of any other member state of the European Union (EU) or a citizen of any other state the citizens of which have a right, in virtue of any treaty between such state and the EU, to be treated in Malta in the same manner as citizens of member states of the European Union.
 
FOI Request Forms or Complaint Forms can be submitted via the e-ID on the FOI Portal(www.foi.gov.mt). An online request can also be done for both the FOI request and FOI complaint without the need for the applicants to register through e-ID.
 
Alternatively the FOI Request Form or Complaint Form can be submitted by email tofoi.epd@gov.mt or by post to the the Economic Policy Department, St. Calcedonius Square, Floriana FRN 1530.
 
Obtaining a copy of the Forms
 
Application Forms (and Complaints Forms) are available for download from this website or from the Freedom of Information website at http://www.foi.gov.mt.
 
 
Information to be Provided
 
When filling in the application form applicants will be required, apart from providing contact details, to give an indication of the document/information that they wish to obtain. They will also need to indicate the format in which they wish to receive such document/information, namely as a hard copy/print-out, as an electronic copy, in the form of a summary/excerpt of contents or by on-site inspection of the document / information in question. Copies of the ID card or passport and/or additional documentation, as deemed necessary may be requested by the Public Authority, in the case of requests relating specifically to the individual, individual's assets/interests/right of access.
 
Types of Requests
 
In essence, one may ask for any article that is held by a public authority and on which information has been recorded in whatever form, including electronic data, images, scale models and other visual representations, and audio or video recordings, regardless of whether the information can be read, seen, heard or retrieved with or without the aid of any other article or device. One may also ask for documentation which contains policies, principles, rules or guidelines in accordance with which decisions or recommendations are made in respect of members of the public (including bodies corporate and employees of the public authority in their personal capacity). Furthermore, eligible persons have the right to request information (in the form of a written statement) on a decision or recommendation made in their respect or in respect of a body corporate which they represent.
 
Acknowledgements
 
FOI requests will be duly acknowledged by the Public Authorities. The acknowledgement forms will include a unique reference number and an indication of the date by when the response will be given. The forms shall also include specific information related to the Public Authority, such as its address, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, opening hours and also details of its internal complaints procedure.
 
Checks to be carried out by the Public Authority
 
On receipt of the application form, the Public Authority will verify whether the request qualifies as an FOI request and will inform the applicant accordingly if this is not the case. If it transpires that additional information/documentation is required, applicants will be contacted by the Public Authority to whom the request has been submitted and they will be provided with all possible assistance in order to ensure that such request complies with the provisions of the Act. This notwithstanding, when submitting an FOI request, applicants are not required to provide any justifications for requesting any particular documentation /information.
 
The Public Authority will also verify whether the requested document / information is held at its end. If this is not the case such Public Authority will seek to identify the proper entity to whom the request should be submitted and will transfer such application accordingly (informing the applicant in the process). If no alternative entity is identified (meaning that the document/information cannot be traced at any Public Authority) the applicant will be informed accordingly.
 
Processing of request 
 
Once it establishes that a request is an FOI request and can be addressed from its end, the Public Authority will determine whether it can provide the applicant with the document/information requested (in full or in part) or whether it will refuse the request. Prior to taking a decision in this regard, the Public Authority shall consider whether any of the exemptions listed in the FOI Act apply. The Public Authority will submit notification of whether the request will be accepted or not within 20 working days from its receipt. An additional 20 working days extension can be further applied, brining up the total to a maximum of 40 working days from the date of the receipt of the original request.
 
Payment of Fee
 
 When submitting a response to the Applicant, the Public Authority shall indicate whether any fees apply. If applicable, such fees shall cover only the costs related to making a document available to the applicant, namely man-hours of processing, costs of photocopies/faxes and digital media and costs related to inspections. Notwithstanding the above, the total applicable fee shall not exceed €40. No additional fees can be incurred for submitting applications or complaints.

The application of fees is regulated by L.N. 158 of 2010.
 
Remedial Action:
 
If the applicant is not satisfied with the response provided by the Public Authority vis-à-vis its request, the applicant is entitled to submit a complaint to the same Public Authority. If, subsequently, the applicant remains unsatisfied with the response received, he/she may lodge an appeal with the Information and Data Protection Commissioner (IDPC). If the applicant remains dissatisfied with the outcome of the appeal he/she may appeal to the Information and Data Protection Tribunal and, subsequently, to the Court of Appeal. Complaints may be submitted for the following reasons:
 
If the Request has not been deemed to be an FOI request

  • The Public Authority has applied an extension to the 20-working day deadline to notify the applicant whether access would be given to the document / information requested
  • The Public Authority has imposed a fee which is deemed to be excessive.
  • The document is not being provided in the requested format
  • The request is being refused
     
    One may also submit a complaint if the Public Authority does not respect the 20 working day deadline (or the deadline indicated in the notification of extension, if applicable) for submitting a response.
     
 
 
Receiving documentation / information
 
Whenever a Public Authority communicates a decision to an Applicant that access to a document / information will be granted, the applicant shall also be invited to effect payment of fees (if applicable). Within 10 working days following payment, the Public Authority will provide the document / information in the same format as the applicant had originally requested or, if this is not possible, in any other format deemed appropriate by the Public Authority. Applicants who submit requests through the FOI portal (www.foi.gov.mt) may be provided with the possibility of downloading the document / information directly from the site. 
 
If no fee will be charged, the document / information will be provided within 10 working days following notification. The request shall be considered to have been abandoned by the applicant if payment is not effected within 20 working days following notification
 
Internal Complaints Procedure
 
An applicant whose request for information is refused, or who is otherwise not satisfied with the information provided, its format or the extension of the deadline for the submission of the requested information, may address a complaint to the Department.  
 
The complaint will be addressed to the Department’s FOI Officer, who shall bring the complaint to the attention of the officer responsible, who shall be the Director General. The officer responsible shall reply to the applicant within 10 working days from the receipt of the complaint. The applicant shall also be informed that he or she may appeal the decision or otherwise address a complaint to the Information and Data Protection Commissioner in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (Cap. 496 of the Laws of Malta).
 
The officer responsible shall inform the applicant of the decision taken with respect to his or her complaint, and in the event of confirmation of a decision not to release the pertinent information, shall explain the reasons thereof. Whenever the applicant’s complaint is related to the format of the information provided or to an extension of the deadline for the submission of information by the Department, and the original decision is upheld, the applicant shall be given an explanation as to why his or her complaint cannot be positively addressed.
 
An applicant may also make use of the Internal Complaints Procedure to report failure to meet deadlines or to send notifications. In those cases where the request for information can be met, but has not been met within the deadlines specified by the Act the officer responsible shall waive any applicable fees for the submission of information.
 
Working Hours (Monday to Friday)
 
1st July to 15th September      7.30am – 2.45pm
16th September to 30th June   7.30am - 4.15pm
 
 
Contact Details 
 
The Economic Policy Department is situated at St. Calcedonius Square Floraina FRN 1530 and the Freedom of Information Officer and the alternate Freedom of Information Officer for this Department may be contacted on 25998661/2 or by email on foi.epd@gov.mt.