New Transport Minister Aaron Farrugia continued to stonewall information surrounding the highly suspicious raft of direct orders dished out by his predecessor Ian Borg to a company responsible for mass activities organised by the Labour party and the minister himself during the 2022 general elections.
A number of parliamentary questions by PN MP Toni Bezzina about some 20 direct orders issued to TEC Ltd just a few months before the election were left unanswered. Farrugia would not explain the €0.5 million spent on the direct orders issued in just one day.
The transport minister failed to justify such a massive expense for the launch of a metro – a project that is still a proposal. Bezzina pushed on and asked for details on how each and every direct order was spent.
He asked Farrugia to state how many tents were used for the launch and accompanying exhibition, as well as the cost of furniture, screens, exhibition structures, audio, cleaning, and transport services provided through funds allocated through the 20 direct orders.
Minister Farrugia only referred parliament to a reply he had given to other parliamentary questions, in which he had said that the direct orders were made according to Transport Malta’s needs.
Since it was former Transport Minister Ian Borg (now foreign affairs minister) who approved the expense for the extravagant launch of what is so far only an idea, the Opposition MP also asked whether Farrugia would have acted in the same way.
The current transport minister refused to reply referring to the provisions of parliament’s Standing Orders, which allow ministers not to express their point of view.
The Shift had revealed how Ian Borg dished out 20 different direct orders on the same day, just a few weeks before the general elections, all given to The Events Company (TEC Ltd), owned by Charles Magro – the Labour Party’s preferred supplier for its own events.
The owner, Carmel Magro, is the ‘whistleblower’ who came to the fore in 2010 when it emerged that former PN minister Tonio Fenech had contracted JPM Bros for renovation works at his home. He has benefitted from millions in direct orders since and clearly continues to benefit from his association with the Labour Party.
After approving such an expense, Ian Borg used the services of the same company to organise six major events for his personal electoral campaign.
According to Borg’s own electoral expenses report, TEC charged the minister a fraction of the costs it charged the government for the metro exhibition.
Minister Borg has not explained the discrepancy. The issue is now being scrutinised by the Standards Commissioner following a request for an investigation by independent candidate Arnold Cassola.
The Electoral Commission has been silent on whether there will be an investigation into the declarations made by electoral candidates, where receipts were not presented amid revelations that donations and expenses were undeclared.