Two Gozo-based artists, Vincent Caruana and Austin Camilleri, have been awarded contracts by negotiated procedure amounting to a total of €375,900 in taxpayers’ funds.
Caruana was awarded €166,900, while Camilleri was awarded €209,000. Both artists told The Shift that the funding was awarded following a public call issued by the ministry of Gozo’s Eco Gozo Directorate in July 2021 for ‘the design, creation, installation and handing over of an artistic installation in Gozo’. Both were opened on 21 June and closed on 28 June.
Both artists said they would be working on a large bronze monument to be erected in a public space. Caruana’s monument will be installed at the Marina in Mġarr, and Camilleri’s will be installed within the limits of Żebbug.
“The total cost includes the production of the bronze monument, shipment, insurance, workforce on-site for installation, preparation of platform to be covered in marble, a marble base for the monument, a lighting system, professional advice from an architect and an engineer, an artist’s design, model and full-scale modelling of the design,” Caruana told The Shift.
Camilleri said his contract sum includes fabrication of the model and silicone casting, bronze production in Italy, transport, installation and maintenance, architectural and engineering fees, and “the artist’s honorarium”.
While the contracts are still under evaluation, negotiated procedures automatically exclude other bidders from the equation since the government directly selects its preferred operator rather than opening the floor to potentially interested applicants. The Gozo Ministry has not responded to The Shift’s questions about why these contracts were awarded in this way.
Before the Labour Party’s came to power in 2013, negotiated procedures were only used when necessary, but following years of abuse in the public procurement sector they have become another form of direct order used to bypass the standard bidding process.
The government has often been criticised for weaponising public funding for artistic projects by directing money to individuals close to the Labour Party. In April this year, The Shift revealed that both Mario Philip Azzopardi and his wife Therese were being paid directly from an annual €20,000 budget meant to be used by Staġun Teatru Malti for the development of scripts in Maltese.
In this case, it pays to be well-acquainted with the Minister of Gozo. Former Gozo Minister Anton Refalo had personally attended ‘coordinates’, a 2018 exhibition by Caruana, and earlier this year, current Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri attended ‘Fantastic Ground’, another exhibition organised by Caruana.