Another raft of direct orders in the first six months of this year issued by Ian Borg’s ministry is set to beat its own record of direct orders, with another €13.6 million of taxpayer funds spent.
The amount tops another €5.2 million spent in direct orders by Transport Malta in the last six months of 2020. The transport regulator has this year more than doubled its spending spree, new information published in the Government Gazette shows.
The Shift analysed 350 direct orders, covering January to June of this year, awarded without competition and again discovered familiar names benefitting from Minister Borg’s way of conducting public affairs. Nine out of every 10 purchases were made without a call for tender.
In most cases, no justification was given as to why certain individuals were selected over others or what specific work they were assigned to conduct on behalf of the Authority.
A number of private companies were used to give ‘services’ to the Authority in the form of human resources, such as security and clerical personnel – a system used to recruit workers without a call to bypass recruitment procedures.
The latest direct orders list shows a continuous government trend that ignores public procurement rules, while responsible authorities such as the Finance Ministry continues to look the other way.
The latest information shows that between January and June 2021 Transport Malta spent almost €15 million on purchases of goods and services, with just €1.2 million spent following a call for tenders.
The rest, a staggering €13.6 million, were made through direct orders, issued at a rate of almost three per day.
Keeping friends happy
While some of the major payments made were related to the rental of offices used by the Transport agency, including some €500,000 a year to Paola Estate that is owned by the General Workers Union, most of the direct orders were smaller in value but repetitive in what seems to be an exercise in circumventing public procurement rules.
Sammut Marine, registered in 2017 and owned by David and Bengi Sammut from Mgarr (the minister’s constituency), were given five separate direct orders worth over €200,000 for the delivery of pontoons, buoys, removal of wrecks and other work related to the maritime sector.
Architect Robert Vella, who retired from the army on a State pension, was specifically selected by Transport Malta for the building a new terminal for the Gozo Fast Ferry service. He was paid €75,000 for a three-week job while receiving some three other direct orders worth more than €30,000 for unspecified “professional services”.
The same architect was chosen by Joseph Muscat to submit an application in 2018 to make alterations at the former prime minister’s private home in Burmarrad.
Frank Muscat – another architect on the government’s gravy train, particularly through direct orders issued by Minister Justyne Caruana – received another round of direct orders by Transport Malta in the first six months of the year.
He was paid more than €80,000 in eight different direct orders for various “services”. His payments were mostly divided in direct orders of €9,700 each, to avoid the €10,000 threshold that would require further authorisation.
Gold Guard hits the jackpot
A new security services company based in Rabat, which is also Minister Borg’s district, seems to have become a favourite with Transport Malta even though it is officially owned by a Romanian.
According to the latest information, Gold Guard Security Services Limited was given 24 separate direct orders and paid a total of more than €500,000 in six months.
Although a small private security operation, the Rabat-based company owned by Giorgiana-Florina Lupu is entrusted by Transport Malta to provide it with clerical staff.
Lupu happens to be the partner of Stephen Ciangura – a former army officer until he was transferred to work as a driver to turncoat Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando.
Ciangura also owns another security firm, Executive Security Services, which is regularly given hundreds of thousands in direct orders from government ministries and agencies.
Another relatively new company set up in 2018, BI Ventures, was given 14 different direct orders ranging from quality assurance to engineering and management services.
Camilleri is connected to various companies that also received millions in government contracts in the past years, including Bava Holdings, Kis Services Ltd and Specialist Group Cleaners Ltd.
Some extra cash for a few acquaintances
Transport Malta’s latest list of direct orders list includes the usual familiar names.
Salvino (Silvio) Grixti, a sitting Labour MP, was paid €37,200 – almost twice what he earns from parliament – for “consultancy fees”.
Joseph Chetcuti, a lawyer who produces programmes on Labour’s One TV and who was also given programmes on PBS, was paid €12,000 from Transport Malta for two unspecified direct orders related to “public relations” services. The lawyer is not known to have ever worked in this field.
Transport Malta also paid another €9,000 direct order to Novolegal for more unspecified legal services. The firm recently set up is owned by Beverly Tonna, daughter of former accountant Brian Tonna who is now accused of money laundering among a list of other financial crimes.
Labour’s election survey guru also made it to the list of direct orders again. Vincent Marmara was this time paid almost €10,000 for a “survey related to mass transport”. Marmara regularly publishes ‘commissioned’ surveys on the GWU’s weekly it-Torċa.