Tista’ taqra dan l-artiklu bil-Malti
Sketchy details of an ad hoc arrangement struck between Gozo Channel and a private client of its chairman Joe Cordina are shedding more light on one of the latest scandal uncovered by The Shift involving the possible abuse of public funds, mismanagement, graft and sleaze.
While refusing to publish the contracts related to Gozo Channel’s lease of a dilapidated property in Mgarr owned by its chairman’s private practice clients, which will supposedly be used as office space for the public entity, Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri has revealed that according to the 10-year lease arrangement the chairman’s clients will be paid a total of almost €700,000 in rent.
This is despite the fact that the state-owned company has already lost out on three years of its use due to the poor state of the property ‘chosen’ by Gozo Channel for offices.
Following questions levelled by Opposition Gozitan MP Chris Said, the Gozo Minister confirmed The Shift’s revelations that the Mgarr property, a former supermarket, could not be used by Gozo Channel without major structural work being undertaken because of serious structural defects.
The minister, however, explained that by way of compensation for work on the property currently footed by Gozo Channel to arrange the building, landlords A & J Hili Ta’ Miema Ltd, have agreed to lend the property to Gozo Channel for an additional 18 months ‘free of charge’ once the 10-year, €700,000 lease elapses.
The minister avoided making any reference to the fact that the property, which was leased in 2019 by the company, is owned by the clients of Gozo Chanel Chairman Joe Cordina’s private auditing firm.
Confirming The Shift’s story that the former supermarket was meant to have started being used as Gozo Channel offices almost three years ago, in January 2020, the minister said that Gozo Channel has so far paid the chairman’s clients €62,400 a year, or €5,200 a month, for the lease even though the company has never used the property.
According to the 10-year deal, which is now already at the end of its third year, the rent will increase by another six per cent as from next year.
While it will have already paid its chairman’s clients a total of €179,000 in rent by the end of this year, without ever even using the building, Gozo Channel is also supplying an additional €500,000 to fix up the property. In the meantime, to is not yet known when it will be ready for use, meaning more time, and rent payments for nothing.
In return for the problems with the property, the chairman’s clients will be repaying just €111,000 in compensation, which amounts to a further 18 months’ lease.
By the end of the deal’s cycle, the landlords will have received a total of €700,000 in lease payments and an almost brand-new office block – fully refurbished at the taxpayers’ expense, which could then be re-leased either to Gozo Channel or to other tenants.
So far, Cordina – a former Labour Party electoral candidate who has been at the helm of Gozo Channel since 2013 – has refused to reply to several questions from The Shift.
These include a request to name the members of the evaluation board who choose the property for the company, the architects involved in ascertaining the building’s structural state prior to the signing of the lease agreement, and the glaring personal conflict of interest he appears to be suffering from through the arrangement.