Transport Malta’s Direct Orders Breaks Record
In a span of just six months, Transport Malta has set a remarkable record with a staggering 387 direct orders, averaging three per day, and a jaw-dropping expenditure of €12 million. These unprecedented figures came in the months leading up to and following the last general elections, making it a topic of widespread concern. In this in-depth analysis, we dive into the details of this record-breaking spree, revealing numerous irregularities and questionable practices that have raised eyebrows and concerns among the public.
A Delayed Revelation
The analysis of this extraordinary wave of direct orders was made possible by the publication of new lists in the Government Gazette, albeit over a year late. This delayed revelation paints a concerning picture, shedding light on possible skirting of public procurement rules and a multitude of irregularities.
Changing of the Guard
While the majority of these direct orders were issued during the tenure of former Transport Minister Ian Borg, who held office until March 2022, it’s essential to note that a significant number of these irregularities also occurred under the watch of his successor, current Transport Minister Aaron Farrugia.
Borg’s political journey took a twist after the last general elections, as Prime Minister Robert Abela sidelined him to the Foreign Ministry, keeping him at arm’s length from Transport Malta’s substantial budgets and major tenders.
One of the most striking aspects of this direct order spree is the unprecedented allotment of orders to specific companies. A standout example is the case of B&A Manpower Company Ltd, which specializes in providing human resources services to Transport Malta. Astonishingly, this company received a record 13 direct orders on the same day.
These orders, which amounted to a total of 24 separate direct orders in six months, were for the provision of clerical services. The cost to taxpayers? A staggering €525,000. The concentration of orders on a single day, in this case, 12 April 2022, raises questions about the required approvals for such a massive irregularity, with doubts surrounding whether Finance Minister Clyde Caruana gave the green light for this puzzling arrangement.
Security and Services
Gold Guard Security Services Ltd, a security company based in Minister Ian Borg’s electoral district, also enjoyed a bonanza of direct orders. They were awarded 18 direct orders amounting to €424,000 in six months, with 13 of them handed out on a single day – 16 April 2022, a Saturday.
Notably, the company is owned by Giorgiana Lupu, a Romanian citizen, and her partner, Stephen Ciangura, who once served as the bodyguard of former MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando. Ciangura is also involved in other security companies, including Executive Security Services, which frequently appears on the government’s direct orders list.
Building on Uncertainty
Another intriguing case is that of BI Ventures, a construction company co-owned by Valerio Camilleri, also known as Il-Hawsla. This company was granted 12 separate direct orders during the same election period, totaling €115,000. Curiously, the nature of most of the work conducted under these direct orders remains unspecified, except for tasks carried out at the Transport Malta building in Sa Maison. It’s noteworthy that this building houses former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s private business operations, an arrangement seemingly tolerated by his successor, Prime Minister Robert Abela.
The Usual Suspects
The list of 380 direct orders includes many familiar names, companies and individuals who have received substantial sums in direct orders from the government in recent years. Among them, notable mentions include:
- Rabat-based lawyer and former Labour candidate Chris Cilia
- Parliamentary Secretary Andy Ellul
- Lucio Sciriha
- Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo’s Gatt Vassallo & Associates
- Marouska Debono, who previously worked with former Minister Edward Zammit Lewis
In an intriguing twist, a company presenting a program on Labour’s ONE TV, D&B Music Ltd, received €6,000 for a “TV show on One TV.” Simultaneously, another Labour television presenter, Joseph Chetcuti, was paid €7,000 for “promotion and interviews” by Transport Malta.
Media and Money
V Squared Ltd, a television company co-owned by Rachel Cachia, the wife of former parliamentary secretary Alex Muscat, also made a substantial income from Transport Malta. They were awarded €13,000 for “scripting and production of videos.” Additionally, Gadgets Ltd, which produces state-sponsored programs on TVM, received €10,000 for “sustainable mobility promotion.”
Several direct orders have raised eyebrows within Transport Malta’s circles. One such order stands out: PAMA Supermarket received a direct order worth €5,084 for the purchase of milk. This seemingly trivial procurement stands in stark contrast to the substantial sums involved in many other direct orders.
Former Armed Forces of Malta architect Robert Vella also attracted attention as he received five direct orders in a single day, totaling €168,000 for “professional services.” Interestingly, Vella had previously received tens of thousands of euros for the construction of the fast-ferry terminal in Valletta, which had to be restarted from scratch after a storm destroyed it.
Political figures were not exempt from the direct order spree. Labour Party Deputy Leader Daniel Micallef was tasked with “enforcement supervisory services” and was contracted for €10,000 through a direct order.
From the Sacred to the Secular
In an unusual twist, even Pope Francis found his name on Transport Malta’s direct orders list. The government agency issued two direct orders worth €10,000 for the supply of “refreshments during the Pope’s visit.”
This unprecedented wave of direct orders has left many questions unanswered and has raised serious concerns about the transparency and integrity of the procurement process. As the public seeks clarity and accountability, we delve into five frequently asked questions (FAQs) to shed more light on this complex issue.
FAQs: Unraveling the Transport Malta Direct Orders Controversy
What exactly are direct orders, and how do they differ from standard procurement processes?
Direct orders are a procurement method wherein a government agency or organization directly awards a contract to a specific supplier without a competitive bidding process. Unlike traditional procurement, where multiple suppliers compete for a contract, direct orders involve a single supplier being chosen for various reasons, often based on urgency or specialized expertise. While direct orders can be legitimate in certain situations, their overuse or misuse can raise concerns about transparency and fairness in public procurement.
What are the key irregularities and concerns surrounding Transport Malta’s direct orders?
Transport Malta’s direct orders have raised several irregularities and concerns, including:
High volume: The sheer number of direct orders (387) and the rapid rate at which they were issued (an average of three per day) have raised eyebrows.
Concentration of orders: Some companies received an unusually high number of direct orders on the same day, which may indicate questionable practices.
Lack of transparency: Many direct orders lack specific details about the nature of the work or services provided, making it difficult to assess their validity.
Political connections: The involvement of political figures and individuals associated with political parties in direct orders has raised questions about favoritism and nepotism.
What role does the Government Gazette play in revealing these irregularities, and why was the publication delayed?
The Government Gazette is a legal publication that provides information about government actions, including the awarding of contracts and direct orders. In the case of Transport Malta’s direct orders, the Gazette’s delayed publication (over a year late) made it difficult for the public to access information about these contracts and assess their validity. The delay in publication has added to the controversy and raised suspicions about transparency and accountability.
How are direct orders typically approved, and what oversight mechanisms are in place?
The approval of direct orders typically involves several steps, including:
- Identification of the need for a specific service or product.
- Determination of the supplier best suited to fulfill that need.
- Obtaining the necessary approvals, which may involve review by government officials or authorities.
- Issuing the direct order to the chosen supplier.
Oversight mechanisms can vary by jurisdiction but often involve checks and balances to ensure that direct orders are awarded fairly and in compliance with procurement regulations. In the case of Transport Malta, questions have arisen about whether proper approvals were obtained for certain direct orders, adding to the concerns about irregularities.
What steps can be taken to address the concerns raised by Transport Malta’s direct orders?
Addressing the concerns surrounding Transport Malta’s direct orders requires a multi-faceted approach, including:
Transparent investigation: An independent investigation into the procurement process and the awarding of direct orders should be conducted to assess the validity of each contract and identify any irregularities.
Accountability: If irregularities are found, appropriate action should be taken, including potential legal consequences for those responsible.
Procurement reform: Reviewing and reforming the procurement process to enhance transparency, reduce the potential for favoritism, and improve accountability.
Public awareness: Educating the public about procurement processes and their importance in ensuring fairness and accountability in government spending.
As the investigation unfolds and more information becomes available, it will be essential to keep a close eye on developments and take steps to restore public trust in the procurement process.
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