Mott MacDon­ald ‘should re­fund pay­ment af­ter al­leged con­flict of in­ter­est’

Call for mas­ter plan to be re­viewed by independent, in­ter­na­tional en­tity

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - Kevin Schem­bri Or­land

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.

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