The Malta Independent 17 July 2019, Wednesday

db Group project: PA chairman authorised jet to transport board member, service cost €8,750

Wednesday, 26 September 2018, 16:33 Last update: about 11 months ago

Planning Authority chairman Johann Buttigieg authorised the use of a private jet to transport a board member to Malta from her vacation abroad in time for the decision on the db Group project at the former ITS land in Pembroke, the authority said today.

The cost of the service - €8,750 – was within the limit that can be authorised by the chairman, and so no endorsement was required from the government.


The PA’s statement came in the wake of a controversy that erupted after board member Jacqueline Gili was brought back to Malta – and later flown back to continue her family holiday in Sicily – for a vote that approved the db Group project, which includes the building of a 38-storey tower. The vote was taken on 20 September, and passed with 10 votes in favour and four against.

A government spokesman told the media that the government did not agree with the move made by the PA.

In its statement today, the PA said that in August 2016, when a similar high-rise planning application was approved, much criticism had been levelled at a board member who for medical reasons was not able to be present for such an important project.

The authority felt that the db Group project, known also as the City Centre development, was a high profile case and carried the same magnitude and importance as that of other high-rise projects. For this reason, the authority wanted to make sure that all the Planning Board members were present for the public meeting, the authority said.

When the date for the meeting in public of the City Centre project was communicated to the Planning Board members 15 days before, Gili had informed the authority that she was going to be away on a family vacation.

Instead of requesting Gili to inconveniently cancel her vacation and re-imburse her all the expenses of her family's holiday, the Planning Authority opted to look into making the necessary arrangements for her, being the only board member abroad, to be flown back to Malta for a few hours to attend the meeting in public.

City Centre, as developers, paid an application fee of over €1.2 million, the PA said. The public meeting outside the premises of the Planning Authority did not exceed €25,000.  The costs associated with the public meeting included the hire of the venue, sound, stage, security and police presence and other logistical requirements. The flights for Ms Gili to return for the meeting cost a total of €8,750 (receipt is being attached). 

In view that the amounts were within the limit that can be authorised by the executive chairperson, no further endorsements were required by Government, the PA said.

In a statement, Partit Demokratiku said that, "Following the decision taken by PA Board on City Center project at Pembroke, Partit Demokratiku has no confidence in the eligibility or credibility of most members of the PA board.

"Furthermore, Mr Johann Buttigieg, CEO of PA, has no right to use public funds in the way he has used them for the private jet arrangements of Jacqueline Gili, even if the quoted expense is within his remit. It is not up to the executive of the PA to interfere with the workings of the board, as Chairman Vince Cassar has made clear.

"Partit Demokratiku questions why it was so urgent for Jacqueline Gili to attend this hearing at such great expense, when she missed 29 out of 75 previous sittings.

"It is also noted that the representative on the PA board, Matthew Pace, has a conflict of interest as it is stated that he is involved in the sale of luxury apartments from the planned ITS mega complex.

"The project should be halted due to these irregularities and also due to the many technical infringements pointed out in the Partit Demokratiku press release on the 23rd of September.

"Developers are not clients of the PA, and should not be treated as customers at the expense of the general public."

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