Martin Saliba, the former executive chairperson of the Planning Authority, replaced by Oliver Magro, an advisor to Prime Minister Robert Abela in 2022, has been given a minor role in the Ministry of Public Works and Planning as a ‘policy consultant’.
Sources told The Shift that both Magro and Abela did not want Saliba to remain at the authority, even in a different role, despite being a full-time employee.
Saliba has instead been given a new role advising Public Works and Planning Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi.
According to government sources, neither the minister nor Saliba are asked for their advice on many matters, as Magro speaks directly to the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) whenever needed.
“It is a pity how we keep wasting the limited and stretched resources this country already has”, senior Planning Authority officials told The Shift.
“Although also controversial, as this comes with the job, Saliba surely had much more to contribute at the PA than inside a minister’s secretariat,” they added.
With a reputation as a fair man, Saliba was appointed as the authority’s executive chairperson in 2019 after the departure of Johann Buttigieg.
The latter was embroiled in various scandals and is now employed by Michael Stivala’s ST Group, together with disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat. Stivala is also the president of the Malta Developers Association.
Saliba’s position at the authority came into question when Robert Abela became prime minister.
Sources said that Saliba was not in tune with Abela’s policies, favouring prominent businessmen, and was “not obeying enough the OPM’s direction”.
Abela employed Magro as a person of trust at the Office of the Prime Minister as soon as he came to power in 2020.
He had previously been an employee of the Planning Authority and was tasked to act as a liaison between the OPM and the authority, with a reputation as the man to go to for permits.
The two had also worked together when Abela was on a €17,000-a-month direct order contract to act as the authority’s legal counsel.
In December 2022, a day after Saliba’s three-year contract was not renewed, Magro returned to the authority as executive chairperson with a €100,000-plus financial package.
His contract ends in December 2025 but can be renewed on the prime minister’s orders.
Meanwhile, Salbia now finds himself out of the authority altogether.