Tista’ taqra dan l-artiklu bil-Malti
The minister responsible for Infrastructure Malta, Aaron Farrugia, is being pressured to order a thorough investigation into claims of systematic corruption in the assignment of multi-million-euro road project direct orders.
The pressure is mounting as more information reaches his ministry in the wake of an all-in-the-family public procurement scandal revealed by The Shift, which has possibly opened a Pandora’s Box of years of graft on a massive scale at the state agency.
But the minister is so far refusing advice from those near him to call in the police, for fear that the claims of sleaze will directly hit the centre of government, including certain ministers with whom he shares the Cabinet table.
Sources at IM have informed The Shift that following last week’s revelations exposing how direct orders are ending up at companies owned by the brother of the agency’s Head of Implementation Noel Vella, still more substantiated information on corrupt practices has now reached the ministry and the office of CEO Ivan Falzon.
Both Minister Farrugia and Falzon, however, have refused to answer when directly asked by The Shift whether he has ordered an investigation or called the police to search IM’s offices for evidence.
Asked to explain whether the assignment of some €1 million in direct orders to Noel Vella’s brother was just a coincidence, both top officials – who are politically and administratively responsible for IM – are refusing to reply.
But sources have confirmed with The Shift that while both Farrugia and Falzon have known about the claims for weeks, they have now been given more evidence proving that these are not just mere allegations but, rather, a system of inbuilt graft that needs to be thoroughly investigated.
Information came out only after Borg and Azzopardi left the picture
“All this information started reaching the current powers-that-be now that both Minister Ian Borg and Frederick Azzopardi are no longer in the picture,” sources have informed informed The Shift.
“There is much more that can be exposed soon as this system has been running for years and is still in operation. However, the minister knows that there is a political price to be paid if a serious investigation is allowed to take place,” they added.
The Shift is informed that Noel Vella, a key official at IM, was brought into the government’s roads agency on the personal initiative of Fredrick Azzopardi and Ian Borg, the minister formerly responsible for the agency.
He is said to have substantial experience in the sector since he had been one of the top officials at the Polidano Group, owned by Charles Polidano, Ic-Caqnu, the recipient of many a direct order from government entities.
Borg was removed from the multi-million-euro budget ministry after the last elections and made foreign minister, while Fredrick Azzopardi quit soon after that and joined James Caterers as chief executive officer.
Vella’s relatives’ companies integrated into procurement system only after he joined IM
Further investigations by The Shift show that the companies owned by Vella’s relatives, Darna Properties and JV Infrastructure, were integrated into IM’s so-called framework contract system only after Noel Vella joined the agency as head of implementation.
The first direct order issued to them was in the first half of 2021, for works on an alley in Zebbug, and was worth €150,000.
Darna Properties is co-owned by Vella’s brother Jonathan, while JV Infrastructure is co-owned by Amanda Muscat, Jonathan’s partner. Luqa businessman Jeffrey Vella is also a shareholder in both companies and is known to be the enterprise’s main investor, supplying the cash required to purchase machinery for the direct order road works coming their way.
Using the so-called ‘framework contract’ IM has been handing out millions of euros for years in direct orders without calls for tenders.
Sources at IM said that this so-called ‘framework’ is the primary tool being used to circumvent public procurement rules to award contracts worth millions of euros to friends and acquaintances.