The Water Services Corporation (WSC), under the guidance of Minister Miriam Dalli and Gozitan CEO Ivan Falzon, has dished out €3.5 million in taxpayer funds on 150 different direct orders in the last six months of 2021, an analysis by The Shift shows.
Sifting through the multitude of direct orders, it is clear that in a number of cases payments for services have been shifted to close government friends with a clear bias towards Gozitan firms and individuals.
Large tenders were won by companies close to the governing Labour Party, with one of the largest – a €6 million job for infrastructural works related to a second-class water distribution system – awarded to Bonnici Brothers. The company’s managing director, Gilbert Bonnici, was a business partner of Prime Minister Robert Abela in property speculation before Abela became prime minister.
As already happened under this administration, impunity has once again been rewarded, as Prax Concrete Limited, owned by Gozitan magnate Joseph Portelli and his partners, Mark Agius, known as Ta’ Dirjanu and Daniel Refalo, were awarded a new €200,000 tender for works in Qala. Prax Ltd was allowed to compete despite owning an illegal concrete batching plant, built without a permit on government-owned land.
Prime Minister Robert Abela was last week exposed by The Shift to have attended a dinner organised by Portelli bringing together contractors and entrepreneurs in Gozo on the eve of a Labour fundraiser in which the Party received record monetary donations from the sister island.
Apart from the large jobs to the ‘big boys’, Miriam Dalli and Ivan Falzon distributed a number of other direct orders to friends of the Labour Party.
Luke Dalli, a ONE TV presenter and the son of former Labour Minister Helena Dalli, was given a new €10,000 legal consultancy, while Ray Abela, a new Labour candidate and the owner of TCTC, was paid €9,000 for providing basic computer courses to WSC staff members.
There’s another direct order for insurance, while Labour’s contractors during electoral campaigns Nexos Lighting were given a €7,000 direct order in connection with a ‘choir filming’.
Among other beneficiaries of this bonanza were Gadgets Ltd, which produces a PBS-funded TV programme, co-owned by Rachel Cachia, wife of Parliamentary Secretary Alex Muscat, and Marnol Sultana who was paid €10,000 for an undisclosed consultancy.
Sultana is the treasurer of a band club from Zebbug, Gozo, and no details were given on his expertise to the WSC. He used to work together with Ivan Falzon at Mater Dei.