Breaking with normal administrative procedures, Gozitan architect Alex Bigeni has been selected by the Gozo Ministry to supervise his private client, Joseph Portelli, during the construction of a new €9 million public aquatic centre.
Bigeni, who until a few months ago served as a consultant to Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri, when Camilleri was still parliamentary secretary, was awarded a public tender on 12 June to provide project management and structural certifications for the Gozo pool project.
According to the tender, Bigeni’s services, which he offered for €99,000, despite the tender document’s estimated cost of over €200,000, will require Bigeni to act on the government’s behalf as project manager and ensure that those contractors building the pool abide by rigid specifications.
The only problem which Bigeni might have, in his capacity as monitoring architect, is that those eventually requiring his authorisation to be paid are his most lucrative private clients, including Portelli, Mark Agius, known as Ta’ Dirjanu, and Daniel Refalo.
The tender was awarded by the government for the construction of the pool, which is to be part of the Gozo Sports Complex, to Poliexcel Construction Consortium, formed by Polidano and Excel Investments. Excel Investments, formed in 2017, lists Portelli, Aguis and Refalo as shareholders.
Research by The Shift shows that Bigeni is the lead architect in a number of projects being built by his clients, including Portelli, his associates and their companies.
Bigeni, who The Shift has learned is also related through marriage to Camilleri, was also the architect responsible for the now-infamous proposal to turn an uninhabited and dilapidated rural building in the outskirts of Qala into a sprawling villa.
Media and public pressure forced Portelli to announce that the permit issued by the Planning Authority for this development would be withdrawn.
Currently, Bigeni is also the architect of a new residence being built in Rabat, Gozo, for Agius.
Asked by The Shift to state whether he had indicated his conflict of interest when submitting his offer for the tender to supervise his own clients on this lucrative public project, Bigeni did not reply.
He did say, “Should it transpire at any point that there is a situation of a conflict of interest, I shall duly inform the Contracting Authority (Gozo Ministry).”
Bigeni also said he is currently not acting as a consultant to any Government Minister.
The building of the swimming pool in Gozo has been a Labour electoral pledge dating back to 2013. Originally, this had to be built through a public private partnership, but the agreement with the selected investor fell through.
It has since been decided that the pool will be built entirely with public funds.