Mepa has dismissed a clear recommendation made by the Ombudsman to review a development permit granted to Parliamentary Secretary Ian Borg.

“The authority stands by its statement that there was no wrongdoing on the part of Mepa or any other party in the matter with regards to the planning application,” Mepa’s chairman Vince Cassar said yesterday.

The permit is for the development of two dwellings in an Outside Development Zone on the outskirts of Rabat. It should be “reviewed and reassessed” as it was issued in “grave error”, according to a report drawn up by the Commissioner for Environment and Planning within the Office of the Ombudsman.

Asked whether Mepa will ignore the Ombudsman’s recommendation, Mr Cassar refused to reply.

The Ombudsman has not yet received Mepa’s response to his report, despite the authority having issued a public statement disputing the conclusions. “I will refrain from commenting further in view of the fact that Mepa has still not submitted its response to the findings of my report,” the commissioner said when contacted yesterday.

Mr Cassar said Mepa still needed to send in an official reply, which would also be sent to the Commission Against Corruption.

Following an official complaint filed against Dr Borg’s development permit last June, both in front of the Commission Against Corruption and separately to the Ombudsman, it was decided that while the latter would tackle the procedures and policy aspect, the Commission would investigate matters dealing with the responsibility and shortcomings of the persons concerned.

There was no wrongdoing on the part of Mepa or any other party

The Ombudsman found that complaints against Dr Borg’s development were justified, with the Commission still to conclude its work.

Dr Borg had used a “devious method” to file his application and Mepa changed the classification of the development application “removing one possible reason (and a very strong one) for refusing the proposal, thereby facilitating its approval”.

Mepa’s “series of omissions and variations cannot be put down to human error but point to a deliberate attempt to remove the one remaining obstacle potentially blocking approval of the application,” the Ombudsman said.

Mepa was urged to reassess the application – applying the existing policies in the same manner as in a similar one, which was refused.

The Parliamentary Secretary has so far dismissed calls from NGOs and the Opposition to step down, insisting the permit is legitimate and he has done nothing wrong. However, after initially saying he was going to carry on with construction, Dr Borg suspended the works until the Commission Against Corruption issues its report.

The commission is investigating both Dr Borg and Mepa.

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