The Planning Authority boss insisted he has never had any political interference or received any phonecalls from government officials to favour any particular project.

"I hold meetings with both objectors and applicants. But I never get any direction (from politicians) to ensure a permit goes through. It's never happened since I’ve been in the job,” PA executive chairman Johann Buttigieg told Times Talk.

Speaking in the wake of the controversial Pembroke project, which will see the construction of 38-storey tower and 17-storey hotel, Mr Buttigieg was in defensive mode, shooting down claims that the authority was rife with corruption.

Asked if anybody had ever approached him to bribe him, he was dismissive, replying with a curt "no".

"I have always invited the public to go to the corruption commission or the police with any claims they might have. As far as I know, so far it has yielded nothing," he said, when asked if he was sure his board members were clean.

I have always invited the public to go to the corruption commission or the police with any claims they might have

Mr Buttigieg has been under siege following his decision to fly a board member to Malta from Sicilty on a private jet for a vote on the db project.

He reiterated that he wanted all board members to be present for last week's hearing and made it clear they needed to be present until the vote was taken. The application was approved by 10 votes to four, sparking wild protests.

Mr Buttigieg insisted that he remained autonomous despite saying he would not repeat the decision to fly over a board member to future meetings after the government said it disagreed with the decision.

"At the end of the day it's the government which gives strategic direction to the authority."

He defended the PA's decision to give the green light to the Pembroke project, saying the board was obliged to abide by the 2006 local plans, the floor-to-area policy as well as any subsequent revisions.

The PA offered a redress to objectors, he said, adding that the authority also needed to take planning policies into consideration. More than 4,000 residents had raised their objections to the project. 

Defending his track record, Mr Buttigieg said he had transformed the PA from a €9 million loss a year entity to a profit of €8 to €9 million.

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