Parliamentary Secretary Ian Borg has stopped work on his properties in the Rabat countryside after Prime Minister Joseph Muscat this morning said he disagreed with his decision to continue the work, despite an investigation.
Within minutes of the Prime Minister making his comment, Dr Borg said on Facebook that while he was insisting he had done nothing wrong and his works were covered by valid permits he was, out of prudence, suspending the works. He said works were stopped late yesterday.
This came after Times of Malta reported how Dr Borg insisted his works would continue as they were covered with a valid permit.
Asked this morning if he would have done the same, the Prime Minister said that were it up to him, he would have suspended the work for the time being. Asked whether he would instruct Dr Borg to stop the works, Dr Muscat said the matter was up to the parliamentary secretary.
Dr Muscat said the investigation, being carried out by the Commission Against Corruption after a report by the Ombudsman, should not take long and he would comment more on the matter at that stage.
Last week, Dr Muscat also said that there were inaccuracies in the comments by the Ombudsman over the case.
Times of Malta reported that Dr Borg brushed off the Ombudsman’s damning report on a Mepa permit issued to him for the building of the two dwellings in a sensitive rural area in Rabat.
The report says the permit was issued following “a grave error” by Mepa and should be reviewed and reassessed.
Dr Borg said he was not prepared to put the project on hold until the conclusion of an investigation by the Commission Against Corruption, to which the report has been referred by the Ombudsman’s Office.
Asked whether he had offered his resignation to the Prime Minister, Dr Borg did not reply.
“The Prime Minister has already said that he will explain the inaccuracies of the Ombudsman once the Commission Against Corruption issues its conclusions,” the 29-year-old parliamentary secretary said.
In his report, David Pace, Commissioner for Environment and Planning in the Office of the Ombudsman, makes it clear in the report that the permit should not have been issued. He points out that a similar application incorporating part of Dr Borg’s plot was refused as it went against Mepa rules.
By changing the classification of the plot, Mepa removed the one possible reason (and a very strong one) for refusing the proposal, thus facilitating its approval
“The complaint that policies were incorrectly applied in the processing of [Dr Borg’s] application PA2708/14 is justified,” the Commissioner concluded.
The Commissioner refers to changes inserted by Mepa officials in the application report based on which the decision to issue a permit was taken.
“By changing the classification of the plot, Mepa removed the one possible reason (and a very strong one) for refusing the proposal, thus facilitating its approval.”
He says the series of omissions and variations in the text of the report could not be put down to human error but points to “a deliberate attempt to remove the one remaining obstacle potentially blocking approval of the application”.
Furthermore, Dr Borg tried to conceal his involvement in the development application because a certain Renald Azzopardi filed it when the owner was Dr Borg, the report says.
“It is strange that Dr Borg chose a somewhat devious method to file the application when all he wanted was for third parties to act on his behalf during the processing of the application,” said the commissioner, who acts as Mepa’s watchdog.
Asked yesterday why he tried to conceal his identity during the application process, Dr Borg said this was not the case as he only did this due to his tough working schedule.
“I did not try to conceal my identity,” he told the Times of Malta. “My application was filed within the parameters of the law and I don’t think that you should tell me what to do.”
He chose a somewhat devious method to file the application
Dr Borg denied any wrongdoing, saying the Ombudsman’s report did not concern him but the process engaged by Mepa.
Mepa, he added, was insisting it had done nothing wrong and that the permit was issued legitimately and in a correct manner.
See the Ombudsman report in full on pdf below.