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16 July 2020
Under the Administrative Procedure Code (Decree-Law 57/99/M, dated 11 October 1999), administrative acts in Macau must generally be performed in writing. Thus, given the way in which COVID-19 has affected everyday life, Law 2/2020 (dated 30 March 2020), which was recently approved by the General Assembly, could not have come at a more appropriate time.
This article sets out the main features of the new law, which will enter into force on 28 September 2020.
This e-government law enables public bodies to undertake various actions and formalities electronically. Together with Law 5/2005 (dated 8 August 2005), which establishes the legal regime for electronic documents and signatures in Macau, Law 2/2020 provides the tools for modern, paperless proceedings.
Under the law, if it is possible to execute an entire proceeding and prepare the corresponding final decision electronically, the relevant public bodies may cease any related paper-based processes.
The law provides that electronic documents issued by public bodies satisfy the written legal requirement provided that a digital format which can support written text is used and that the electronic means of identification provide an appropriate guarantee of the document's author or origin.
Thus, for any legally permitted purpose, public bodies can now perform the following acts electronically instead of producing paper copies:
Integrated or automated proceedings are also possible. Thus, interested parties can request the simultaneous assessment of applicable conditions and issuance of decisions by various competent bodies. This will make a big difference in cases where the involvement of different public departments is legally required and existing paper-based processes make obtaining their various opinions time consuming. To allow for integrated proceedings, the law permits existing paper-based processes to be reviewed and simplified or adapted to enable them to be performed electronically, including with respect to the order in which actions must be performed. Processes may also be divided into different phases or by types of request. All of the above should not only simplify administrative processes but also reduce costs for interested parties.
The evidential value of the abovementioned digital documents is equivalent to the corresponding paper documents.
Law 2/2020 is a landmark development, with many welcoming the new rules and the anticipated streamlining of administrative tasks and proceedings involving public bodies. Nonetheless, as Macau is attempting to become a 'smart city', much more needs to be done in this respect. For instance, in terms of court proceedings, Macau is still very much in the stone age compared with other jurisdictions.
For further information on this topic please contact Pedro Cortés or Madalena Perestrello at Rato, Ling, Lei & Cortés Advogados by telephone (+853 2856 2322) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The Rato, Ling, Lei & Cortés Advogados website can be accessed at www.lektou.com.
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