A long-awaited Olympic-size pool at the Gozo Sports Complex in Victoria has already cost taxpayers some €4 million more than the original €9 million budget, as developers Labour donor Joseph Portelli and tax-averse Caqnu pocket almost half as much again in income from taxpayers’ funds.
At the same time, the project has fallen significantly behind schedule, and Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri has refused to commit to a new completion date for the project, which was supposed to be finished and functional last year.
Yet finishing works on the project are yet to start, sources have pointed out, making it almost impossible for the pool to be ready by the end of this summer as Camilleri had pledged before the election.
The complete miscalculation of the project’s budget and the squandering of further millions in taxpayers’ funds was revealed earlier this week in parliament.
Following questions by Gozo MP Chris Said, Camilleri said that so far, the government has already made over €13 million in payments connected to this project.
Refusing to give a breakdown of the payments made and to whom, The Shift is informed that most of the payments were passed onto Poliexcel Construction – a consortium formed between Joseph Portelli and his associates, and Carmel (Charles) Polidano known as ‘Iċ-Ċaqnu’.
In 2017, the consortium won a tender for the construction and finishing of the project for a total cost of €9.1 million.
After changes to the design of the project, the government’s budget had gone haywire, with taxpayers already forced to fork out many millions of euros more than estimated.
To make matters worse, industry sources told The Shift that even more millions of euros are expected to be passed onto the Portelli/Ċaqnu duo as more work is still required to complete the project.
The Shift consulted sources in the construction sector to assess whether the project expenditure made any sense compared to market costs. They said that “with that kind of money, we could have built three pools”.
Apart from the change of plans after the tender was issued, a “blasphemy” in project management techniques, large parts of the former Sports Complex were dismantled, although they were relatively new and still in mint condition after a refurbishment from EU funds.