Government whip Glenn Bedingfield and six other government MPs have spent over €20 million of the public’s money, from taxes, passport sales and development grants, on projects falling exclusively within their own electoral districts, an analysis by The Shift has revealed.
Amid speculation about a possible general election later this year, most MPs and candidates have begun campaigning in earnest – pushing promotional material, going on house visits and snapping pictures with local communities.
Some, however, have been dipping into public funds to do so. Of the seven MPs identified by the The Shift as using State money to promote projects in their own electoral districts, the top three spenders are Bedingfield, Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri and Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia.
Bedingfield, Camilleri and Farrugia’s projects account for three-fourths of a total of around €20.5 million used by government MPs to carry out enhancement projects in their constituencies.
The other four MPs making up the other one-fourth include Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship Alex Muscat, Finance Minister Clyde Caruana, Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo and Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri.
Bedingfield is chairman of the Cottonera Foundation, a State-funded entity set up specifically for embellishment projects in the former ONE TV reporter’s home territory, which gives him easy access to and control of significant funding for his projects.
Cottonera Foundation has a budget of €7.6 million to carry out 25 restoration projects in the electoral district the MP will be contesting, an initiative that was launched last year.
Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri, meanwhile, spent €3 million on one refurbishment project in Marsalforn alone, a project which he inaugurated three weeks ago with Prime Minister Robert Abela after a previous inauguration in December last year failed to lead to the commencement of works.
Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship Alex Muscat dished out money generated from Malta’s passport sales scheme on several projects within his own district, as well as committing funds to projects overseen by Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg and Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia.
Muscat spent €2.95 million from the passports fund on an LED floodlighting project on Mosta’s iconic dome, a renovation of Mdina’s lighting system and the landscaping of a formerly abandoned agricultural field that once belonged to notorious murderer Ċikku Fenech, also in Mosta.
Both Mosta and Mdina fall within the parliamentary secretary’s electoral district, and all three projects were announced since the start of summer. Meanwhile, Borg’s Infrastructure Malta, the State agency which will be implementing Mdina’s lighting system, will also be given €2 million in passport funds for other embellishment projects.
Muscat’s munificence extended to the environment minister, who was handed €3 million in passport sales funding for urban greening projects. Farrugia spent €3.05 million on projects falling within the first electoral district – his constituency
Under Farrugia’s orders, two gardens in Floriana and Marsa underwent refurbishment, along with refurbishment works carried out a youth centre in Valletta, as well as a car park in Ħamrun, all of which were regularly promoted on the minister’s Facebook page within the space of a few months.
Finance Minister Clyde Caruana, in conjunction with Energy Minister Miriam Dalli, announced yet another refurbishment project in another garden in Kalkara, a city that falls under Caruana’s electoral district. One million will be spent on what is being described as a “carbon-neutral garden”, a project that was announced on 10 August.
Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo spent a total of €2.8 million on various embellishment projects. In May, Bartolo, together with Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg, announced a €2 million regeneration project in Għadira Bay.
The minister also set up a 24/7 cleansing unit for the locality of St Paul’s Bay, along with a minor refurbishment along Xemxija’s promenade costing €300,000. Another €140,000 were also spent on a lighting enhancement project for the Belvedere tower in Lija.
Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri allocated €90,000 for refurbishment works in Fgura’s parish church, his hometown, another project backed by passport funding and co-announced with parliamentary secretary for citizenship Alex Muscat. Camilleri also announced an additional €90,000 in a local garden and football pitch in Tarxien.