A company co-owned by a man who in 2015 ‘helped’ Transport Minister Ian Borg conceal his name on his property’s development application to build his controversial residence in a rural area in the limits of Rabat, is awarded a direct order, at least once a month, from Transport Malta, an investigation by The Shift News can reveal.
According to recent published data in the Government Gazette, Farogroup – with offices based in Msida – was granted a total of six direct orders for various services by the transport regulator, with a total value exceeding €150,000.
Transport Malta is politically directed by Ian Borg while half the shares in Farogroup appear to belong to Renald Azzopardi from Zejtun, the same man who falsely declared that he owned the property on the development application in the hamlet of Santa Katerina, which was later revealed to belong to Minister Borg and his wife.
According to the list of direct orders, between January and June of this year, the Farogroup was issued with direct orders for various services including supply of paint and liquid membrane (€23,500), supply of tiles (€31,250) and unspecified “various items” (€28,000) among others.
All these supplies are easily available on the market and, according to public procurement rules, Transport Malta should have issued a tender to buy these supplies instead of directly selecting the Farogroup without any form of competition.
It is not known who decided to do this, and why were these supplies procured directly from the company belonging to the Minister’s personal project manager.
Further investigations by The Shift shows that the same company, incorporated only in 2015, the same year that Borg’s controversial planning development application was approved by the Planning Authority, has been receiving direct orders from other organisations under the remit of the Minister.
Research shows that apart from Transport Malta, Azzopardi’s company also received various direct orders from other public authorities under the political clout of Minister Borg during the last few years, particularly from the Planning Authority and the Grand Harbour Regeneration Corporation, both of which form part of Borg’s portfolio.
In 2020, the Planning Authority was removed from Minister Borg’s portfolio and the organisation stopped giving direct orders to the Farogroup.
Apart from Farogroup, Renald Azzopardi is also a shareholder in two other companies: Azzo Trading & Supplies Malta Ltd and Seanav Maritime Services Ltd.
The project manager and the Minister
The relationship between Renald Azzopardi and Minister Borg hit the headlines in 2015 when an Ombudsman’s report investigating the way Ian Borg obtained a permit to build his house in Santa Katerina, a hamlet close to Rabat, was issued by the planning authority.
In its report, the Ombudsman found that the then Parliamentary Secretary had ‘used’ the name of Renald Azzopardi to conceal his name on the planning application belonging to his house.
Apart from the fact that Azzopardi had declared that the property was his, when in fact it was Ian Borg’s, the Ombudsman slammed the Labour politician for using this “devious method.”
“It is strange that Dr Borg chose a somewhat devious method to file the application when all he wanted was for third parties to act on his behalf during the process of the application.”
Borg later justified this “devious method” by saying that Azzopardi was his project manager as he could not follow the application because of his “busy schedule.”
The report also concluded that Borg obtained his development permit from the PA (then MEPA) irregularly as, according to the ombudsman, the permit should have never been issued.
Despite the Ombudsman’s recommendation that the permit be reviewed, both MEPA and then disgraced Prime Minister Joseph Muscat ignored the recommendation and Borg continued to build his two apartments in an idyllic rural setting.
Ian Borg’s house recently returned to the headlines, after it emerged that he’s built a pool in an agricultural field he bought from a mentally ill man, at a very cheap price, and under dubious circumstances.
While the pool permit is also mired in controversy and had originally been struck down by the court, though it’s currently under appeal, another court found that Minister Borg could not be believed when he testified under oath in a libel case instituted by a third party related to the sick man who had sold him the field.
Borg had testified under oath that he was not aware that the seller of the field suffered from mental health problems.
Transport Malta and Ian Borg
Under the direction of Ian Borg, Transport Malta has been distributing record amounts in direct orders, dishing out millions while bypassing procurement regulations.
In many of these cases, the beneficiaries of these direct orders have been shown to be close to, or connected with, the Minister or his constituency.
One of the most glaring direct orders revealed recently was the appointment of a freshly graduated 22-year-old lawyer as a legal advisor to the transport regulator on a salary of €7,690 a month.
It later resulted that Adreana Zammit was the daughter of Jesmond Zammit – Ian Borg’s former chief of staff and his main canvasser.
Prime Minister Robert Abela stepped in to cancel the contract after the revelations were made public, however, no action has been taken against the Minister.
Borg declared that he had nothing to do with the employment of Zammit and that Transport Malta was an ‘independent’ organisation.