€150,000 ‘emergency works’ on site owned by Gozo Channel chair’s clients

Gozo Channel is handing out another €150,000 in a direct order for emergency works at the Mgarr supermarket premises – owned by clients of Gozo Channel chairman Joe Cordina’s private auditing practice – which will be used as the company’s new head office.

In November, the Gozo Ministry denied a Freedom of Information request from The Shift News requesting a copy of the contract between Gozo Channel and its chairman’s client for the lease of the rundown Ta’ Miema supermarket, which was found to be in dire need of structural work.

Hundreds of thousands of euros are already being paid to lease the supermarket premises in Mgarr, which is unusable at the moment given its serious structural deficiencies.

In the meantime, the state company is not only paying rent for an unusable property, but it is also paying for the dilapidated property’s structural work to render it safe for employees.

The plan had been called into further question as it was revealed that Gozo Channel has plenty of other office space at its disposal without needing to resort to leasing a supermarket and fixing it up before employees can move in. The supermarket requires major work to the tune of some €500,000 before the employees are able to move there temporarily.

In Parliament on Monday, Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri confirmed the new €150,000 expenditure on “emergency works” in reply to Gozitan Opposition MP Chris Said, but failed to answer Said’s question on whether the direct order was issued because the leased site has stability problems that are holding up work.

Camilleri confirmed the costs are to be footed by Gozo Channel and that they will be compensated for through an extension in the lease.

While consistently refusing to publish the contract in Parliament, Minister Camilleri did say in October that the 10-year lease arrangement will see the chairman’s auditing firm clients, A & J Hili Ta’ Miema Ltd, being paid a total of almost €700,000 in rent.

The minister has said that Gozo Channel is paying 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 6% this year.

The former supermarket was meant to have started being used as Gozo Channel’s new offices three years ago, in January 2020, but, that time has instead been used trying to render the building structurally fit for occupation.

Gozo Channel is also supplying an additional €500,000 to fix the property up and it is not yet known when it will be ready for use. In return for the problems with the property, the chairman’s clients will be repaying €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.

                           
                           
                               
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Godfrey Camilleri
Godfrey Camilleri
6 days ago

Direct orders that exceed €10,000 are illegal. Then why do the police take no action?

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