Taxpayers are forking out more than half a million euros to extensively re-build parts of a private property Gozo Channel leased three years ago but has never used.
Pictures of ongoing work at the former Ta’ Miema supermarket in Mgarr, which was leased by Gozo Channel in 2019, show the building was in such a poor structural state that parts of it had to be completely demolished and re-built and that even the roofs had to be replaced.
The Shift is also informed that since Gozo Channel had taken out a lease on an unsound building, the company’s chairman Joe Cordina was forced to obtain a special Planning Authority permit, known as a Dangerous Structure permit, that allowed the company to carry out emergency works to stabilise the building.
Through the emergency intervention, piles had to be fitted to prevent the building from collapsing.
Landlords are Gozo Channel chairman’s accounting clients
Investigations into this latest Gozo Channel debacle, yet another in a long line, show that it is actually a scandal.
They show that while the property is still owned by A&J Hili Ta’ Miema Ltd – the private company that used to run Ta’ Miema Supermarket – all the structural work is being paid for by Gozo Channel with public funds.
The Shift is also informed that the owners of the private company are clients of chairman Joe Cordina’s private auditing firm.
Questions sent to Cordina asking him to state what type of checks Gozo Channel had carried out on the building before leasing it and why it had not cancelled the lease once it discovered it was a dangerous structure were not answered
Cordina was also asked to explain why public funds are being used to fix private property and to state how much the ongoing works will cost. Again, he refused to provide any details.
Gozo Channel sources described the case as “one of Gozo Channel’s biggest scandals in recent years” and said that, so far, it is expected that some half a million euros will be spent to fix up the private property.
Earlier this year, Cordina’s Gozo Channel issued a direct order in favour of contractors Road Construction Ltd to perform “emergency works” on the building.
The Shift is informed that through the lease agreement, the clients of the Gozo Channel chairman are being paid €100,000 a year for the lease.
While already making some €300,000 from the lease, the landlords are also having their property done up at taxpayers’ expense.
Gozo Channel and the Gozo Ministry have both refused to publish the lease contract.
In the meantime, Gozo Channel has been registering massive losses in the past years and is being kept afloat through millions of euros in subsidies being injected into the company by the finance ministry.