Nine of every 10 purchases of goods and services made by the Gozo Ministry in 2021 were made through direct orders, completely departing from standard public procurement rules.
An analysis of the long list of direct orders published by the Gozo Ministry in the Government Gazette long after the six-month window stipulated by law reveals the ministry, led by Minister Clint Camilleri and permanent secretary Joe Borg, issued 263 direct orders in just 12 months with a total value exceeding €4.6 million.
The seemingly endless list shows that, in many cases, the Gozo Ministry skirted the legal obligation for official authorisation from the Finance Ministry. Instead, it split up contracts for single providers into segments of under €10,000, which do not require authorisation.
In one case, cleaning company General Cleaners Ltd was given a repeat €9,000 direct order every month for cleaning services at the Innovation Hub – in the process, amassing a total bill of almost €110,000 that was split into 12 different direct orders.
The same method was repeated in other procurement exercises, mainly when it came to the security services contracts used by the ministry to employ constituents in exchange for votes.
Security First Services Ltd, a Nadur-based company set up in 2013 and co-owned by businessman George Said, known as ‘Id-Diaz‘, was also given repeat direct orders.
These included a €133,000 agreement split into four different direct orders to provide security at a Covid-19 vaccination centre in Victoria, and another €80,000 agreement realised through 11 different direct orders to provide security for the Cittadella.
Victoria’s Leone Band Club was given five direct orders over a 12-month span to rent its premises as a Covid-19 vaccination centre for some €40,000.
The non-profit Gozitan Emergency Response Rescue Corps (ERRC) was meanwhile given another seven direct orders worth just under €70,000 – just enough to remain below the €10,000 threshold.
The abusive procurement system was used for practically all the Gozo Ministry’s needs, including the provision of sponsorships for friends, potential influencers and individuals producing rose-tinted public relations for the government and, in particular, for Minister Camilleri.
The Gozo Ministry also deemed it necessary to award Sigma – the organisers of online gaming networking events – two direct orders of €10,000 each to publicise the ministry in its publications.
CVC Marketing, a company known for producing publicly-funded PBS programmes, was also given numerous direct orders. These included €30,000 for a sports television programme, €8,000 to insert subtitles into its own television programmes and another €10,000 for an advertising campaign on the same programme co-sponsored by the ministry.
Associated News, another Malta-based public relations agency, was given a €22,000 direct order to advertise Gozo in its Air Malta in-flight magazine, while television presenter Claire Agius was paid €6,500 to plug Gozo into her televised travel show.
The Gozo Regional Development Authority – a new entity supposedly independent from the government but financed by the Gozo Ministry – has also used direct orders to hire its consultants. These include former General Workers’ Union official and Foundation for Tomorrow’s School’s Chairman Cory Greenland and Labour’s pollster Vincent Marmara through his private enterprise Sagalytics.
The company of BOV Chairman Gordon Cordina, E-Cubed Islands, was also given a number of direct orders, including one for €19,000 for general consultancy services for the new authority.
Even the rental of premises, which was not listed in the information published, was done through direct order.
The Wild Birds Regulation Unit also entered into a leasing agreement worth €18,500 with Cast Renting Ltd, a company co-owned by designer Carlo Stivala and Joseph Calleja.
Grena Investment Ltd, controlled by financial advisor Michael Grech, who is also an Air Malta board member, was meanwhile awarded a €25,500 one-year lease agreement by Gozo Channel.