The Malta International Contemporary Art Space (MICAS) project in Floriana, which is set to be completed two years after its original deadline, has cost taxpayers at least €13.2 million in direct orders and tenders, The Shift has learned.
MICAS is also the name of the government entity set up to promote the contemporary art scene and spearhead the project. MICAS’ board includes the former chairwoman of the CHOGM Task Force Phyllis Muscat, Francis Sultana, Georgina Portelli, and Clive Aquilina.
The figure of €13.2 million was compiled from publicly available information published in the Government Gazette. Since 2017, the government has issued at least 59 direct orders and 12 tenders for the MICAS project.
While the project is known to have encountered at least one setback in 2020 due to the discovery of architectural remains on the site, any other reasons behind the two-year delay remain unclear. The Shift has sent questions to MICAS to clarify the reasons why the project is now being slated for 2023, two years late.
The biggest three tenders issued for the project include a €10.1 million tender for excavation and finishing works awarded to GP Borg Ltd, a €1.4 million contract for “ground works and construction works” awarded to BAVA Holdings Ltd, and a €275,000 contract awarded to a company named P8-JV to set up an “integrated design team” for the project.
GP Borg Ltd, which forms part of GP Borg Group, lists Kevin Borg, George Borg, Jason Borg, Paul Borg, Diane Buttigieg, Brian Borg, Conrad Borg and Sandra Calleja as its main shareholders.
GP Borg Group was mentioned in an article published by The Shift in May, which outlined how the company had been awarded another highly lucrative contract amounting to €25 million despite its track record of at least two known fatal workplace accidents over the last three years.
BAVA Holdings Ltd is a company owned by the same shareholders who own Construct Furniture – Valerio, Alviero and Adolphus Camilleri and Brigida Agius. Construct Furniture is the furniture-making company embroiled in the court case of Matthew Bartolo, a 17-year-old who died in an accident in Construct Furniture’s factory six years ago.
Besides the 12 tenders issued for the MICAS project, a total of 59 direct orders have also been issued, many of which were awarded to familiar names that often receive government contracts.
Nexos & Co Ltd, the Labour Party’s lighting and event logistics company of choice, received €26,619 through three direct orders, while TEC Ltd, another of the Party’s major event logistics suppliers, received two direct orders worth €12,950.
Despite MICAS’ somewhat limited footprint on the international contemporary art map, and the fact that its museum remains incomplete, €60,000 was also spent on ‘an international public relations programme, international press briefings, and international event coordination’. That contract went to London-based Bolton & Quinn Ltd.
There were also eight individuals who received repeated direct orders year after year. By way of example, Isaac Azzopardi was awarded four direct orders from 2017 – 2022 to provide graphic design and personal assistant services, which cost a total of €20,400, while Julia Galea and Eve Cocks both provided public relations and communications services, which cost taxpayers a total of €28,600 and €52,884, respectively.