Heritage Malta mum on €1.2 million direct order for Hamrun trailer company

The national heritage agency in hot water over the way it handled the lease of a historical palace in Mdina as a ‘temporary’ restaurant, is now also refusing to explain a €1.2 million direct order it issued last year to lease garages in Ħal Far from a company closely intertwined with the Hamrun community – the same district contested by the minister formerly responsible for the agency, Jose’ Herrera.

Through a direct order signed in May 2021 by Heritage Malta’s current chief executive officer Noel Zammit, Alfaran Trailers Maintenance and Logistics Services Limited is being paid some €200,000 a year for the lease of five large garages in the Ħal Far industrial estate.

The Shift is informed that the garages, which Heritage Malta calls warehouses, are being used as a reserve storage facility for artefacts of national importance in the agency’s possession.

The lease agreement with Alfaran stipulates that the garages are to be used by the government agency for the next six years, until 2027, with the possibility of extending the lease for a further two years.

In that case, the Hamrun-based company would be making some €1.6 million from taxpayer funds from the storage space being used by Heritage Malta. The contract also stipulates that it is the agency and not the lessor that is responsible for all the expenses related to the upkeep and maintenance of the warehouses, including the maintenance of the alarm and CCTV security systems.

The lease procurement was not acquired through a tender, as stipulated by public procurement rules, and instead was issued through a non-competitive direct order, according to information published in the Government Gazette.

It is not yet clear whether the lease was entered into following, at the very least, an Expression of Interest to ascertain that the government agency was getting value for money.

So far, the CEO of the publicly-funded agency has refused to reply to several questions sent by The Shift.

Zammit was asked to state why a tender was not issued for the procurement and to explain how the agency identified and selected the Ħal Far warehouses instead of similar private warehousing facilities available on the market.

Zammit was also asked whether the current Alfaran warehouses are covered by all the necessary permits and if the then minister responsible for Heritage Malta, Jose’ Herrera, was involved in the decision to lease the Hamrun family’s premises.

Alfaran’s owners, the Abelas, are a large Hamrun business family known to be closely involved in all the activities connected to the Hamrun community, from the town’s feast to its football club.

Until the last general elections, Herrera, the minister previously responsible for Heritage Malta, had always been elected in the First District, with Hamrun being the largest town in his constituency. He was unseated, however, by former Labour Pieta Mayor Keith Azzopardi Tanti in the last elections, with Herrera consequently losing his cabinet position and the parliamentary seat he had occupied for several years.

Chaired by the former Principal Permanent Secretary Mario Cutajar, who was given a pension top-up of some €20,000 through his appointment at the agency soon after he retired from the Office of the Prime Minister, the agency has been hit by a series of scandals that mainly involved the maladministration of public funds.

The latest scandal uncovered by The Shift relates to the lease of the courtyard of Palazzo Vilhena in Mdina as a restaurant for a paltry €50 a day. Conversely, the price of the set menu at the restaurant stood at €120 a head.

So far, Noel Zammit, responsible for the lease of the palace’s courtyard to the owners of the Grotto Tavern in Rabat, has not explained why a tender was not issued for the lease.

                           
                               
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Francis Said
Francis Said
1 month ago

Nothing much to comment as this has become the norm of this government. What worries me most is that the ordinary citizen does not show any concern about these illegalities.
Is it not possible, from a legal point of view to take this government to Court for breaking the procedures that are in place and not being found in a Court of Law to have defrauded the taxpayers’s funds in such a way.

viv
viv
1 month ago
Reply to  Francis Said

Definition of an autocracy.
Malta is by definition an autocratic state.
Within the EU.

Vela
Vela
1 month ago

Golden Votes Holders Only !

Fiorentina Darmenia-Jochimsen
Fiorentina Darmenia-Jochimsen
1 month ago

And i have been waiting now 5 years to be reimbursed for family owned property leased to and then apparently taken over by the same Malta government.

Last edited 1 month ago by Fiorentina Darmenia-Jochimsen
Joseph
Joseph
1 month ago

Probably empty garages!

Paul Pullicino
Paul Pullicino
1 month ago

This administration of clowns reminds me of the head of family who spends money, he does not have, on himself and his friends, gambling, drinking and women and who then dies leaving his widow and children without a roof and saddled with a huge debt.

Mark Sullivan
Mark Sullivan
1 month ago

And what about the fact that in the same area of Hal Far there are empty factories which belong to the government?

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