Companies recently set up are making a killing out of millions in direct orders dished out by Minister Ian Borg’s Transport Malta with over €5 million spent in six months, according to information published in the Government Gazette.
An analysis by The Shift of the latest batch of direct orders between July and December 2020 shows that while the transport regulator keeps ignoring public procurement rules, dishing out hundreds of direct orders in sectors where competition is available, most of the handouts are being shared by a few companies.
Transport Malta, chaired by Joseph Bugeja who was chosen by the transport minister, is awarding contracts to companies with no background or experience. Most are companies formed only a few months before Transport Malta awarded them direct orders.
A case in point is the regular use by Transport Malta of a company set up in May 2018 – B&A Manpower Company Ltd – which supplies the government agency with clerical staff over and above the hundreds it already employs on a full time basis.
Between July and December, the company owned by Jean Karl Abela and Roderick Borg, both residing in St Paul’s Bay, were given 28 direct orders and paid more than €600,000 for their services.
Transport Malta is one of the company’s main clients, paying them over €1.5 million since the company was created.
Another new company, 5H Ltd, registered in September 2019, has also become a ‘favourite’ on Transport Malta’s direct order list. Owned by Marco Vella from Mellieha and specialising in road markings, 5H Ltd has been awarded 24 direct orders in the last six months of last year and paid over €200,000.
Since 2018, Transport Malta is no longer responsible for road maintenance as this responsibility has been hived off to a new government agency – Infrastructure Malta – also under the political direction of Ian Borg.
Road Technologies Ltd, registered in October 2018 by Stephen Delia, received 12 direct orders in the last six months under review, mostly to upkeep pelican lights and zebra crossings.
The company was given a lot of work in the Dingli area – Borg’s constituency – and operates from an office at A3 Towers in Paola, the same building that hosts Transport Malta’s land transport directorate.
The latest Transport Malta direct orders’ list also includes a number of companies related to individuals who have become synonymous with government handouts since 2013. Others include individuals well-connected to the Labour Party.
ICT Ltd, co-owned by Keith Fearne, brother of the Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne, together with a Forestals company, was awarded more than €150,000 in direct orders by Transport Malta in six months. These included a €50,000 payment for a proposal for the design of a nautical online portal.
Adreana Zammit, a 22-year-old lawyer, who is the daughter of Minister Ian Borg’s chief canvasser Jesmond Zammit was paid a €50,000 direct order for ‘legal services’ for six months. Her father is an advisor at Ian Borg’s Ministry and put on a €67,000 financial package, with an extraordinary allowance to boost his income.
Although forking out thousands for the legal services from Zammit, who graduated in 2019, Transport Malta could not rest solely on her advice – during the same period, the government agency paid thousands of euros to a number of other lawyers and legal firms including Grech and Ghaznavi Advocates and Attard Gerada Gouder Advocates – where Charlon Gouder, the lawyer defending government officials during the public inquiry is a partner, as well as Labour Party candidate Jonathan Attard.
At the same time, Labour’s Deputy Leader Daniel Micallef – an architect by profession – is also on the latest Transport Malta direct order’s list, given almost €30,000 for unspecified consultancy services.
To commemorate its 10th anniversary, Transport Malta also decided to commission a publication for the occasion, which was also awarded by direct order.
While the printing of the book set back taxpayers by €9,000 through a direct order given to ICreate Ltd, a company co-owned by Charles Magro who supplies the Labour Party with its mass events equipment through various companies including TEC Ltd, the book’s author, Labour election candidate Maria Brown, was also awarded a direct order and paid €17,000 to write the book.