It’s too much work to be transparent, Lands Authority claims

Answering Freedom of Information requests would ‘stall the Authority’s internal workings’

 

The Lands Authority is insisting that it cannot provide information on the contracts and direct orders it is forking out as it is too much work and “will stall the internal workings of the Authority”.

The bizarre statement follows a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from The Shift as part of an ongoing investigation into claims of abuse of public funds and collusion in how the Lands Authority (LA) has been granting direct contracts to a particular company.

The LA, in response to our requests, has told the Information and Data Protection Commissioner it would be impossible to provide the information requested as it would place too much of a strain on its resources.

Instead, it accused The Shift of “abusing” FOI legislation and embarking on a “fishing expedition”.

For almost a year, The Shift has been waiting for the LA to provide a copy of framework contracts it entered into with several companies in relation to the execution of structural and other repair works at government properties, and for a list of payments made for the contracts.

The FOIs filed by The Shift were necessary following continuous refusals by LA Chairman John Vassallo and its CEO Robert Vella to address several questions on the topic.

Following the refusal to provide the information requested, The Shift asked the Data Protection Commissioner to intervene and force the Lands Authority to abide by the law.

Still, the LA is having none of it and has now sent a letter to the Information and Data Protection Commissioner in which it insists it should not be made to provide the information.

According to the Authority, which falls under the political remit of Minister Silvio Schembri, information on its direct orders and other contracts need to be kept under lock and key “in light of the fact that the Authority might have been granted advantageous prices when compared to how various companies charge third parties and divulging the prices might be counterproductive”.

Also, according to the LA, retrieving such information requires too much work and would “stall the internal workings of the Authority”.

Turning its guns on The Shift for having had the audacity to ask the Authority to be accountable and transparent, it stated, “One cannot use the law to put undue strain on the internal workings of a public entity such as the Lands Authority [and] not to use it as a fishing trip to the whim of the applicant [The Shift].

“The Authority cannot emphasise enough the fact that this request, if it had to be acceded to, will only be a tool in the hands of speculators to exploit said information to third parties,” it insisted.

The Shift is very reliably informed that in recent years, these framework contracts were the source of a multitude of abuses in the way in which they were used to distribute work and public funds to well-connected contractors.

Last July, The Shift reported how the owner of a petrol station in Gzira was controversially given permission by the LA to relocate to the locality’s last remaining public garden. This was just one of LA’s multitude of direct orders and contracts issued in recent years and which The Shift is enquiring about.

The Labour-led Gzira local council is opposing the LA’s decision.

Simon Muscat, the owner of the Manuel Island Service Station Ltd, is also a shareholder in Cubed Trunkey Projects Ltd.

Simon Muscat having a drink with his friend Clint Scerri known as ‘The King’ of the Lands Authority

The latter was given numerous direct orders over the past years by the Authority including for the refurbishment of the Auberge De Beviere – the LA’s headquarters in Valletta.

The contracts were awarded to Muscat when the Authority had been under the leadership of James Piscopo, a close friend and at the time the Authority’s CEO.

The Authority has so far refused to say how many contracts were given to Muscat’s company over the past years and how much his company was paid.

Sources at the LA told The Shift that the Authority will resist giving such information as some it its own officials may end up exposed in various irregularities.

                           
                               
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makjavel
makjavel
10 days ago

They do not want to waste time telling us how much they are picking, they are busy picking whatever is there for the taking. Wait until the government goes broke , DEFAULTING it is called. Clive Caruana knows very well how close is Malta to this disaster. The last straw will be the €10 forced wage increases on the employers.

carlos
carlos
10 days ago

Answering Freedom of Information requests would ‘stall the Authority’s internal workings’or maybe stall the corruption. shame on this corrupt lot ruining our country with the blessing of the most corrupt government mafiamalta ever had.

Ġwanni Fenek
Ġwanni Fenek
10 days ago

Arroganza assoluta.

Joseph
Joseph
10 days ago

Ma baqaghlhomx dicenza. Il-problema hija gahan li ma jafx ahjar milli jircivi xi check id-dar u xi pjacir l’hawn u l’hemm. U d-demokristjan jibqa jsaffar is-suffara b’hiltu.

KLAUS
KLAUS
10 days ago

Do I understand this correctly:

There is a legal obligation to provide information.
This is not fulfilled because it would simply be ‘work’?

How brazen is that?
Do these brazen philistines want to lose 40 lawsuits again?

Of course, there is a great danger that the looting will now come to light here.

Small tip:
Make clean table! Stop looting. Stop corruption.
Our children need an honest and beautiful Malta.
Look around whatsoever have done!

Annie
Annie
10 days ago

And yet they expect business to be transparent. If you can’t do it, time to fire the whole corrupt establishment and employ people who have nothing to hide … yes that would be non Maltese running a whole organisation. Fancy that !!

saviour mamo
saviour mamo
10 days ago

Please change that name Land Authority to Land Watchdog so that its members will always remember what they are supposed to do.

viv
viv
10 days ago

The mafia is the victim.

KLAUS
KLAUS
10 days ago

In fact, ROBBER Abela has shown the way by running away from the free press, especially Ms Caroline Muscat. There was no other way he could hide his (in)deeds and those of his PL.

He knows his clock is running out and is trying to create ridiculous obstacles in droves, up to and including relatives justice, but his clock is ticking faster and faster. Panic sets in. Panic among his witty ministers, for whom the most ridiculous excuse still seems good enough.

My dear ROBBER Abela, if you select people on the basis of protection against corruption and not on the basis of qualifications, then you should not be surprised that in the end they will only be figures of bad fun.

In other words:
YOU don’t work for a good future of MALTA.

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