Former Projects Malta officials cast doubt on Finance Minister’s claim

Two former Projects Malta chairpersons contradicted Finance Minister Edward Scicluna’s claim that he was kept in the dark over major projects carried out by that entity which were linked to large scale corruption scandals.

Adrian Said and William Wait told the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination that the permanent secretary to the Ministry of Finance, Alfred Camilleri, had served on the Projects Malta board.

Wait also testified that Projects Malta board meetings were held at the Ministry of Finance, leaving members of the inquiry board dumbfounded.

Scicluna had complained of Projects Malta’s lack of transparency, saying it was always difficult to extract information from this entity when required.

Wait cast doubt on the Minister’s testimony. “Whenever information was requested, we always gave it. It would be routed through Alfred Camilleri, the permanent secretary at the finance ministry.”

Said’s testimony echoed Wait’s claims. “While Minister Scicluna may have his reasons for saying what he said, the permanent secretary had issued a statement on the matter saying that the Finance Ministry had all the information it required on the hospitals’ privatisation deal. I was never requested any information by the Finance Ministry.”

Camilleri will be called to testify at a later date.

Projects Malta was set up to oversee public-private partnerships across economic sectors ranging from large infrastructure projects to tourism, under the responsibility of disgraced former Minister Konrad Mizzi.

The entity was involved in some of the biggest and most controversial projects on the island, including the sale of the former ITS site to DB Group, and the hospitals concession granted to Vitals Global Healthcare.

Said told the board he had felt left out of the loop because the hospitals project “came out of nowhere”, bypassing Projects Malta and being subcontracted through direct orders.

Lawyer Aron Mifsud Bonnici was “the main coordinator” and the RfP was drafted by law firm Ganado and Associates. Mifsud Bonnici sat on the evaluation committee while acting as company secretary to Projects Malta. He also served as secretary to the negotiation board.

Asked how it was possible for Mifsud Bonnici to hold this position at Projects Malta when his law firm was being handed direct orders from that same entity, Wait replied that the lawyer carried out services “over and above” his role.

The inquiry heard how Mifsud Bonnici, Konrad Mizzi’s personal lawyer and advisor, had also travelled to Montenegro with the disgraced former minister to sign the corrupt Mozura wind farm deal.

Both Wait and Said testified that requests for proposals for the controversial Vitals Global Healthcare hospitals deal were not drafted by Projects Malta. Said claimed he only found out about the MOU for the concession recently through the media.

The agreement between the government and VGH was at the centre of a damning NAO report which concluded that the deal was predetermined. It has also deemed the process as “staged and deceitful”. Said claimed he was never summoned by the National Auditor.

Wait insisted that no one from Projects Malta was involved in Electrogas, or in the Cafe Premier / Gaffarena deals, as they predated the setting up of the entity.

When asked to give reasons for his resignation from Projects Malta, Said dismissed claims that it was related to irregularities he may have witnessed during his tenure. “”I am used to the private sector and having absolute control over projects,” he said, “and in the government sector that is not how it works.”

The public inquiry was established to look into the circumstances surrounding the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed in a car bomb on 16 October 2017. Today would have been her 56th birthday.

The inquiry is led by retired judge Michael Mallia, together with former chief justice Joseph Said Pullicino and Judge Abigail Lofaro.

 

                           
                               
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