Mott MacDonald ‘should refund payment after alleged conflict of interest’
Call for master plan to be reviewed by independent, international entity
St George’s Park representatives have recommended that government considers making Mott Macdonald, the firm hired by the Planning Authority to draw up the Paceville master plan, refund any funds paid out of the public coffers to the firm, “once they failed to declare their conflict of interest”.
During a Parliamentary Environment Committee meeting, representatives of Mott MacDonald (the firm hired to draw up the master plan) had denied having any conflict of interest in the drafting of the Paceville master plan, despite admitting to having been contracted for engineering consultation on the Mercury House project.
The Mott MacDonald representative, Damien Price, had explained that in March 2016, the firm, along with nine others, were approached with the idea to draw up an integrated transport strategy for the area. In early April, the Planning Authority then gave Mott MacDonald the terms of reference and they submitted their proposal in late April.
He said that they were working, on an advisory basis relating to engineering, on the Mercury House project between January and April 2016. The firm’s representative stressed that the engineering consultancy works on the Mercury House project ended before their work on the Paceville plan had begun.
Parliamentary Secretary for Planning Deborah Schembri had announced that government will review the master plan to put people’s minds at rest.
St George’s Park Co Ltd submitted their concerns regarding the Paceville Master Plan in the form of a document, and expressed a number of concerns with the project. One of their main concerns surrounds the alleged conflict of interest.
In their submissions, they also recommend that the plan’s framework be reviewed by a new international independent entity that would consult with all stakeholders including the public, developers and business persons.
Sources from St George’s Park also told this newsroom that the Planning Authority should be held responsible for wasting public funds - not just those spent to pay Mott MacDonald for its services but also those spent on advertising campaigns.
Mott MacDonald also came under fire when it was revealed that the original call for applications had been for a transport strategy for the area, yet no separate call was made when it was changed to a Paceville master plan. This is why Mott MacDonald had to bring in another firm, Broadway Maylan.
Planning Authority Executive Chairman Johann Buttigieg himself has come under heavy fire from the master plan. He defended Mott MacDonald previously, and stressed that Mott
MacDonald were working for Zaha Hadid on the Mercury House project, not for the developer. It also turned out that Mott Macdonald had informed the Planning Authority of their prior work on Mercury House, and Mr Buttigieg had said that Mott Macdonald’s work on that project was limited to preliminary consultancy to do with the buildings electricity and structure. He said that when he asked Mott Macdonald whether this could impinge on the master plan, and that they said it would not.
The master plan has not only been attacked on issues of alleged conflict of interest, but also on issues regarding indications of possible land expropriation, land reclamation, a lack of information and the issue of high rises themselves.
The St George’s Park submission document welcomes the statement by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to the effect that that what needs to be changed will be changed. The group states that such changes to the plan address its economic value, the importance given to private property rights, values for projected expropriations, amongst others.