‘Flying in PA board member is unprecedented’ - chairman Vince Cassar

PA board chairman disagrees with Authority’s decision to fly in board member Jacqueline Gili  

PA chairperson Vince Cassar (left)
PA chairperson Vince Cassar (left)

The chairman of the Planning Authority board has made it clear he disagrees with the PA’s decision to fly in a board member from a holiday in Sicily, to approve the 38-storey City Centre project. 

Vince Cassar confirmed that to his knowledge, the decision to fly in a board member was  unprecedented and no such case had happened before. 

“It is the responsibility of all board members to attend meetings. There may be circumstances where they are unable to attend. This would not be the end of the world. There was no necessity to ensure that all members were present for this particular vote. As long as there is quorum, a meeting can take place irrespective of the absence of a board member.  In this case there was clearly a quorum for the meeting to take place.” 

Cassar insisted that his role as board chairman was to ensure there was a quorum for the meeting and said that he had no clue that a board member had been flown to Malta to attend this particular meeting. 

“On very rare occasions I myself missed board meetings to attend international meetings connected to myrole as President of the Commonwealth Association of Architects, but then I simply delegated the role to the deputy chairperson and meetings proceeded in my absence.”

Opposition leader Adrian Delia has now called for an independent inquiry into the matter.  “Is this the first time the Planning Authority has flown in one of its board members on a private jet?” he asked. “If so, when, and if not, why now?”

“Did [Jacqueline Gili] know in advance of this board meeting and did she obtain permission before travelling? If she had permission, then what changed the Planning Authority’s mind? If she didn’t have permission, then was she forced to come back or did she decide to come back out of her own free will? If she was forced to come back, then who forced her? If it was her decision, then why did the taxpayer pay for her flight?”

"Since there so many questions, I think an independent inquiry should definitely be held to establish the facts."

The Planning Authority has not denied that a politically-appointed member of its highest decision-making board, Jacqueline Gili, was flown in from Sicily to Malta to vote last Thursday on the 38-storey City Centre project in St George’s Bay.

The decision by the PA board to approve the DB group’s high-rise hotel with 10 votes to four, angered residents of Pembroke, whose Labour-led council opposed the project.

Newsbook on Tuesday evening reported that Gili, a director of operations at the Contracts Department appointed to the PA board by the finance ministry, had been flown in to Malta during a family holiday in Sicily, by private jet.

[WATCH] PA board approves 38-storey db Group development

According to comments from the PA, it was the regulator who “made the necessary arrangements to ensure all its members are present for the PA board meeting” and that Gili was flown in during her holiday “instead of [the PA] paying off the holiday itself.”

MaltaToday has asked the PA to confirm whether it was the regulator who footed the bill for Gili to be flown in by private jet from Sicily, and to confirm the amount it paid for the flight.

Gili was reportedly flown in by a private jet operated by Queen Air, a Beechjet 400A registered OK-ZUB, which was said to have landed in Malta at 9:30am. Gili finally arrived at the Hamrun Lyceum for the PA meeting at 10:45am.

The meeting finished at 3:37pm. 

PA members, especially government representatives, are regularly absent from PA board meetings. In 2017, the same Gili who was flown to Malta to vote, was absent on 29 decisions. Another government department representative was absent on 50 decisions.

 

A spokesperson for the government was quoted by The Malta Independent as saying that the administration disagreed with the action taken by the PA. “With regards to the decision taken by the PA which allegedly brought one of its board directors from holiday to vote for a planning decision, the government clarifies that such decisions was taken without informing government. Government disagrees with [this] line of action.”

Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola described the news as obscene. “While people are forced to live in garages and young couples can’t afford a down-payment on a house loan, a Joseph Muscat-appointee on the Planning Authority Board is flown in and out of Malta by private jet to and from her Italian holiday, in order to vote the way Muscat wanted on the most controversial and consequential planning decision of my generation.”

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