University issues €9 million in direct orders, Auditor General has trouble explaining it

The University of Malta has issued a total of 150 direct orders worth €9 million in taxpayers’ funds during the last two years, and the Auditor General (NAO) has complained of a total lack of cooperation to audit and verify this spending.

The University has recently published a raft of direct orders issued by its administration in 2020 and 2021, but this was only done after the NAO described its audit on the University’s 2020 accounts as being “inconclusive” since the Alma Mater’s administration, under the rectorship of Alfred Vella, had not cooperated.

The NAO’s declaration is very damning with regard to the state of affairs at the University, insisting that it has “experienced a general lack of cooperation by the UoM” and that “various documentation and clarifications required during the course of the audit were not provided and this limited the audit scope to a large extent, rendering the assignment inconclusive.”

In 2020, the UoM received some €92 million in taxpayers’ funds to function, most of them (€88 million) having been used to pay salaries. However, the NAO found several stumbling blocks in their efforts to verify how public money was being spent in certain procurement areas, particularly where it comes to professional services, consultancy fees, security as well as cleaning services.

“Despite several reminders and a final deadline – which was also ignored – most of the documentation and clarifications requested for audit purposes were not provided,” the NAO noted.

In one example, regarding a €1 million contract for cleaning services at the University campus, an extension for another €1 million was only signed two months following the lapse of the original agreement, while a fiscal receipt amounting to almost €100,000 in one particular month was only issued 10 months later – on the same day that this receipt was requested by the NAO.

The same infringement of rules was found in another contract examined by the auditors, involving the provision of security services.

While a contract awarded to Signal 8 Security – a name that frequently appears in government direct orders –  had an original value of over €989,000, information published by the University in the government gazette gave an incorrect value of €659,000. The relative agreement was signed almost a month after the service had started.

An analysis by The Shift of the list of 150 direct orders issued by the University in the last two years shows that while most of this procurement was related to yearly licences and subscriptions, which might justify the use of the direct orders system, some others did not.

All government and public entities are limited to the use of the direct order system in cases of urgency and only as a last resort, but the University issued direct orders for products and services that are easily available on the local market, and in areas where harsh competition prevails.

These include €52,000 spent on the hiring of tents from TEC, Labour’s mass meeting stage providers, €25,000 for lighting at the Aula Magna, the procurement of laptops and computers from Merlin Computers and SG Solutions Ltd (ICentre) for tens of thousands of euros, the chartering of boats for research projects and the installation of AC units.

                           
                               
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Amanda Borg
Amanda Borg
3 months ago

But then for administration staff and lecturers there is ridiculous levels of cost control that even a pencil needs to be approved and re-approved. Something is seriously fishy here. Is this done so there are more funds for these ‘direct orders’???

Last edited 3 months ago by Amanda Borg

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