A massive project to extend the museum of St John’s Co-Cathedral that was meant to be ready by V18 has faced delays, but the Foundation responsible for its completion is remaining mum about it.
The Shift reached out to the Foundation based on information that the multi-million euro extension, partly financed through EU funds, remains in its initial stages three years after the deadline.
The administrators of this project, led by the CEO of St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation, Cynthia Degiorgio, are refusing to give any details about the €10 million project.
“The project is progressing such that a press conference will be organised shortly to which you may attend,” was the only reply from Degiorgio who is facing mounting criticism for her handling of the project.
The museum has been closed since 2016 due to this project even though the Co-Cathedral is one of the most visited places on the island.
President of the Foundation Prof Rev Emmanuel Agius did not reply to questions when asked to give details on the current state of the project, approved by the Planning Authority in 2016, and to explain why the museum project is still far from completion.
The Shift asked the Foundation to state why the museum is not yet open, the reasons for the massive delays, and whether anyone will be held accountable for missed targets. The Shift also asked when the project is expected to be completed.
Sources close to the Foundation told The Shift that the museum project is practically stalled and no one has a clue as to what is going on:
“The museum project, which has been on the cards since at least 2013, is still in its infancy, even though it had to be ready by 2018. No building has started on the extension, which had to include a 700 square metre tapestry hall intended to showcase a set of 29 17th-century tapestries donated to the Co-Cathedral by Grand Master Perellos.”
The fact that the museum has been closed and the extension is not yet taking shape is preventing the Co-Cathedral from exhibiting a prestigious collection. Apart from the tapestries, it includes historic sacred vestments, choral books, silver collections and other unique artefacts.
The sources insisted that although a great deal of money has already been spent, particularly on consultants selected by the Foundation and its CEO, “there is little to show for the vast amounts of money spent”.
Changes in the Co-Cathedral’s administration, but no accountability
The Co-Cathedral is administered by a Foundation set up jointly in 2001 between the government and the Church. Six administrators, three for the government and three for the Church sit on the board, with the President rotating every two years.
Currently, the Foundation is presided by Prof Rev Emmanuel Agius for the Church, with Mgr Victor Zammit McKeon and Mgr Salvino Micallef.
After Robert Abela was made prime minister, some of the government’s representatives were replaced.
Wilfred Buttigieg and Frank Zammit, both Labour candidates for local elections, and Matthew Zerafa – a former Air Malta employee and currently chief of staff for Social Accommodation Minister Roderick Galdes – now sit on the Foundation’s council representing the government.
Degiorgio has been the longest-serving permanent member of the Co-Cathedral’s administration, in place for the past 17 years.
Approved in 2016, the major extension had to include the construction of a new Tapestry Hall, a Caravaggio Centre and a new entrance and exit from Merchant Street to be separate from the Church’s entrance. The project also includes new access to the Bartolott Crypt which is currently not accessible.
There has been no announcement that any of the project’s phases have been completed.