A group of NGOs is requesting a full-scale investigation into the practices that have led to a PA employee being appointed head of the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal.
In a statement published on Tuesday, the NGO, Moviment Graffitti referred to an article published on Sunday by The Sunday Times which revealed how Martin Saliba, former chairperson of the EPRT, was still listed as an employee of the Planning Authority.
This leads to a blatant and unprecedented conflict of interest, stated the NGO.
A spokesperson for the NGOs said that while Mr Saliba decided upon many appeals including those of the ITS-DB project, Tumas Group’s Quad Towers of Imrieħel, and the Central Link Project, “not once did he disclose the fact that he was an employee of the Planning Authority. This means that he could have never met the requirements needed to qualify as an impartial or independent adjudicator in line with the demands of his role, since he was bound to his employer.”
Thirteen NGOs, including Moviment Graffitti, said that as a consequence, the appellants who appeared before Saliba may have never been given a fair hearing. They also said that this means that residents and NGOs who have been crowdfunding various appeals across the island may have been investing their human, financial and professional resources in a system that is rigged against them.
The NGOs are; Attard Residents Environmental Network, Azzjoni: Tuna Artna Lura, Bicycle Advocacy Group, BirdLife Malta, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Extinction Rebellion Malta, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth (Malta), MaYA Foundation, Moviment Graffitti, Nature Trust Malta, Ramblers’ Association of Malta,The Archaeological Society Malta.
In view of this, the NGOs are demanding a full-scale inquiry as to how this was allowed to happen. They are also calling for an audit of all the appeals Martin Saliba has decided upon, full disclosure of all his agreements with the Planning Authority and answers as to whether the current EPRT Chairman is also an employee of the PA.
The NGOs insisted they will not allow this to be swept under the carpet.