Muscat should assume responsibility for conflict of interest appointment, NGOs say

Photo: Facebook

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Eleven non-governmental organisations have condemned disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s defence of his appointment of a Planning Authority employee to the tribunal which decides appeals from the Planning Authority’s own decisions.

When Muscat was still prime minister, he had appointed Martin Saliba to the appeals tribunal, which decides on Planning Authority cases, whilst Saliba was on leave from the Planning Authority and with the assurance that Saliba would retain his job at the authority after his stint on the Tribunal.

In a joint statement on Monday, a spokesperson for the group of NGOs said that this was a blatant conflict of interest.

“An adjudicator was appointed to decide on cases where his employer – past, present and future – was a party,” the NGOs said, noting how Saliba did not ever disclose this issue which revealed that his financial security was guaranteed by his re-assuming his job at the authority.

“It is evident that such a situation would lead to bias especially when considering Martin Saliba’s track record in deciding controversial large projects including the Tumas/Gasan Mrieħel Towers, db/ ITS and the Central Link project,” they said.

The NGOs underlined that the issue was not about the qualifications of Martin Saliba who was handpicked and appointed as the Tribunal’s chairman but the fact that he was employed with the planning watchdog, while deciding cases to which his employer was party.

“Joseph Muscat and Martin Saliba should assume immediate responsibility for this breach and lack of transparency. We will not rest until we pull down the edifice of deceit within the planning and appeals system. For one, we need to ensure that this is not happening again,” the eleven NGOs stated.

The statement was signed by the Attard Residents Environmental Network, Azzjoni Tuna Artna Lura, Bicycle Advocacy Group, BirdLife Malta, Din l-Art Helwa, Extinction Rebellion Malta, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Moviment Graffitti, Nature Trust Malta and Ramblers Association of Malta.