The Housing Authority chose a canvasser of Housing Minister Roderick Galdes to remove around 20 illegal structures on top of a block of government flats in Valletta.
After years of legal battles between the Housing Authority and residents – who, without any permit, built close to 20 illegal washrooms on top of the ‘Old Prison Block’ building in Valletta – the Authority obtained permission last October to carry out the long-awaited enforcement.
The Authority, at the time led by former Caritas director Leonid McKay, employed the services of Jeremy Portelli, one of the main canvassers for Social Accommodation Minister Roderick Galdes.
Sources at the Authority told The Shift that it was Minister Galdes himself who had given the Authority directions to use his canvasser’s services for the assignment. A senior Housing Authority official told The Shift the then-CEO had complied without question.
The Authority’s quick-fix solution was also raised in Parliament by Opposition MP Darren Carabott through several parliamentary questions about how Portelli had been selected and how much he had been paid.
Yet answers were not given. Minister Galdes’ stock reply was that the contractor had been selected “through the framework contract”.
Already widely used at Infrastructure Malta and other government entities, the so-called framework contract system is another way of circumventing public procurement rules and handing direct orders out to preferred contractors.
Through an open public call, contractors are invited to be placed on a list specifying fixed payment rates for random work that may be required in the future. When the need for such work arises, the entity decides which contractors are chosen for which assignments.
But since most government authorities, such as housing, employ lax checks and balances systems, many contractors are prone to overcharging – as has resulted from various National Audit Office inspections.
The Shift is informed that Galdes’ canvasser is frequently chosen for Housing Authority assignments through the framework contract system.
Asked by The Shift for a copy of all the invoices paid out to Jeremy Portelli over the past two years, the Authority, like Minister Galdes told Parliament, only said that he had been paid “according to the framework contract”.
McKay, meanwhile, has now been moved out of the Housing Authority and heads the government’s new Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis. During his time at Caritas, McKay had been a fervent opponent of marijuana legalisation.
He replaced Mariella Dimech, who was sacked after just 10 months on the job.