Outgoing Transport Minister Ian Borg, shunted sideways by Prime Minister Robert Abela after the last general elections, issued more than 300 direct orders in his last full-six months in the ‘projects’ portfolio.
Spending some €6.6 million directly from his ministry’s coffers, apart from hundreds of other direct orders made by Transport Malta and Infrastructure Malta, Ian Borg has by far outstripped his Cabinet colleagues in awarding contracts outside any kind of competitive process.
Many of Borg’s political acquaintances and ‘friends’, particularly residing in his two constituencies, appear once again in the latest long list of direct orders published in the Government Gazette.
Many of the beneficiaries were given multiple repeat tenders, one every few weeks, in a clear attempt at bypassing public procurement thresholds, in order to avoid having to issue new tenders.
B&M Manpower Company, established just a few years ago, was once again a favourite at Borg’s ministry, providing it with ‘clerical services’ through 12 different direct orders.
The same happened with security services, with direct orders awarded repeatedly to the same companies, such as Security First and Gold Guard Security.
A number of favoured architects and lawyers also continued to receive a stream of direct orders from Minister Borg.
Former Labour candidate and Rabat lawyer Chris Cilia was awarded five separate direct orders in the last six months of 2021. A regular nominee on various government boards, including Indis Malta (formerly Malta Industrial Parks) and the Malta Gaming Authority, Cilia also appears as a ‘political commentator’ on various discussion programmes, including shows on PBS.
Lawyer Joe Chetcuti, a ONE TV entertainment programme host, was paid €6,000 for unspecified consultancy, while a law firm representing disgraced former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri, Gatt, Vassallo and Associates were also engaged by Borg.
Architect Chris Cachia, a permanent presence on all direct orders lists connected to Borg, was awarded tens of thousands of euros in a fresh basket of direct orders both in his personal name and through a new firm called Xk6 Ltd.
Another architect, Gene Zammit was given five direct orders in six months while Idea Management, a consultancy firm owned by the former MCAST Principal Silvio Debono, was also selected to provide Borg’s ministry with consultancy management services.
Earlier this week, The Shift reported that a company owned by Labour’s mass events organisation, TEC Ltd, was issued 20 different direct orders in just one day by Ian Borg. According to these direct orders, some €500,000 were paid to Carmelo Magro in connection with the Malta Metro idea launch.
Other regular direct order beneficiaries on Borg’s list include the General Workers Union, which has been leasing space at Paola’s A3 Towers to Transport Malta for €0.5 million a year; auditing firm RSM used by Labour for its services; lawyer Aron Mifsud Bonnici, disgraced former Minister Konrad Mizzi’s right-hand man; and Redorange, a PR agency that is owned by former deputy prime minister Louis Grech.