A new government primary school in Msida that was supposed to be completed three years ago (2019) is not only still unfinished but needs substantial additional taxpayers’ funding due to bad workmanship leading to severe structural problems.
Government sources close to the Foundation for Tomorrow Schools (FTS) – the government agency entrusted with the multi-million-euro project – told The Shift that whole floors that have already been built have shown signs of rapid deterioration, with some areas showing signs of “excess deflection”.
Following an inspection by the architects responsible for the project it was established that, as well as several floors, the whole project in general needs reinforcement at its foundations, and will also include the installation of additional steel beams in various areas to support the new structure.
The same sources told The Shift that apart from the “bad workmanship”, which has resulted in these serious structural problems, the interventions needed will costs taxpayers additional hundreds of thousands to fix.
As a result, a new application has been filed with the Planning Authority for new excavations to be carried out on site as well as an extension of the school’s foundations in order to position the whole structure on solid rock.
Asked for an explanation for the serious deficiencies found in the ongoing school project, Neville Young, the Chief Executive Officer of the FTS declined to reply.
Young – a political appointee with no experience in such projects – is also refusing to state when the Msida school is going to open its doors for the 500 students it is planning to take, and how much the repairs needed are expected to cost.
Originally announced by former Education Minister Evarist Bartolo in 2017, the government planned to have the new school ready to host its students in September 2019.
Due to these works, hundreds of students from the Msida area were asked to start attending school away from their hometown, with most of them sent to Santa Venera.
While the project has encountered several difficulties, mainly due to bad planning by the FTS, students and their parents have been kept in the dark over the project’s progress, with hundreds of pupils still having to attend other schools across the country.
Minister Bartolo had said that this project would cost taxpayers some €3 million. However, according to FTS sources “costs have already veered significantly from the budget, and no one really knows what the final bill will be and what additional costs will be incurred to arrange what has already been built so far”.
The FTS has been hit by a series of scandals in recent years, including allegations of corruption and embezzlement related to school maintenance works and the building of new facilities.
Edward Caruana, a former senior FTS official, is currently facing corruption charges in court over bribes he allegedly took from school projects. He was given the position at the FTS as a person of trust by former minister Evarist Bartolo.
At the same time as he is alleged to have taken bribes, Caruana invested in a personal project, building a block of flats in Rabat. His brother, Joseph Caruana, former education ministry permanent secretary, was removed after the scandal and was recently appointed by Prime Minister Robert Abela as Commissioner for Inland Revenue.