The contract to build a new quay and cargo handling facilities at Ras Hanzir, an abandoned area at the Grand Harbour, has been awarded to a consortium including Gozitan construction magnate Joseph Portelli for a staggering €18 million more than a rival offer from Bonnici Brothers.
The new facilities, substantially financed through EU funds and which will take two years to complete, will create a new 350-metre-long quay and a cargo area the size of four football grounds.
The cheapest offer submitted was €37.5 million but the contract was awarded to Portelli’s consortium for €55.4 million.
Transport and Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg had said the new project was estimated to cost some €65 million. Yet the cheapest offer for the project for almost half the price was turned down.
Bonnici Brothers have formally objected to the award, forking another €50,000 to have the Public Contracts Review Board cancel the decision.
The decision to disqualify the Bonnici Brothers’ bid on the basis that it was found to be technically non-compliant ‘does not make any sense’ and goes against the rules and regulations of the tendering process and public procurement rules, according to the company’s lawyers.
The two main contenders of the multi-million euro project both have very good connections with the Party in government and have been at the receiving end of lucrative direct orders from the Labour Party.
Joseph Portelli is involved in various recent scandals including the illegal mounting and operation of a concrete batching plant in Gozo, the turning of ‘dubious’ planning applications to his favour and his defiance of planning rules.
Portelli admitted in a recent interview that he speaks to politicians regularly because they help facilitate his projects.
Known mostly as a developer, Portelli entered the road infrastructure business a few years ago through Excel Sis, a company he formed with Turkish partners.
Bonnici Brothers, on the other hand, were the main recipients of millions in direct orders for the building of the shooting range project a few years ago, which included some €13 million in direct orders by the government.
The Shift also revealed how the current managing director of the Bonnici Group, Gilbert Bonnici, was in business with Robert and Lydia Abela in a development project turning a terraced house in Iklin into a block of flats, leaving substantial profits in the prime minister’s pockets.