The Auditor General has been formally requested to investigate and report back on the government’s granting of 30,000 square metres of public land at Smart City to Sadeen Education Investment Limited for the dismal price of 47c per square metre.
Three Opposition members of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee – PAC Chairman Darren Carabott, David Agius and Graham Bencini – filed a formal request to the Auditor General on Monday morning to investigate the land deal that had been pushed through Parliament by the government benches.
Sadeen, which operates the beleaguered American University of Malta, had been given the 30,000 square metres of land at just 47c per square metre.
The government had submitted the contract to Parliament’s National Audit Office Accounts Committee. At the time, the two Opposition committee members who voted against the contract were outnumbered by government MPs, who vote in favour.
The contract then went to a parliamentary vote that saw the Opposition benches voting to strike it down but with the other side of the aisle, with its significant majority, approving the contentious deal.
The Shift revealed the draft contract last June, reporting the AUM swap of public land it had been given at Zonqor Point, Marsascala for land at Smart City to Smart City included a catch that will mean millions in profit for the Jordanian construction company.
The original 2015 deed, through which the government passed 31,000 square metres of pristine land in Marsascala to the AUM on a temporary emphyteusis for 99 years, includes a clause that specifies that the Zonqor land “may not, under any circumstances, be converted to a perpetual emphyteusis”.
The government, however, overturned the condition and allowed Sadeen Education Investment Ltd to convert the title from a temporary to a perpetual emphyteusis for just €0.47c per square metre.
The Jordanian owner can now convert the newly acquired land as freehold for the ridiculous sum of €14,827.
The new deed does not exclude the possibility of Sadeen eventually selling the land or using its buildings for other purposes such as tourism.
The new deed also removed a clause obliging the AUM to have 4,000 students by its 10th year of operations, a goal the university is seen to be failing miserably.
Questions are also being raised as to how the educational institution was given a new licence by the Malta Further and Higher Education Authority.
The facility recently had its accreditation revoked by its home country of Jordan’s Ministry of Higher Education and the Committee for Accrediting Academic Institutions Abroad as it apparently “did not comply with basic standards and education conditions”.
The Opposition, which maintains the AUM should never have been accredited in Malta in the first place, has called for a review of its Malta licence and agreement – in particular over the fact that the university’s current student body pales in comparison to what it is supposed to be now four and half years down the line.
According to the original plans and the terms of its original licence, the AUM was to reach an intake of 1,200 students by its fourth year of operations. By last April it has not even reached a tenth of its original target. According to the audit, by April 2022 the AUM had just 113 registered students.
Do we really need the auditor general to tell us what we already know? These contracts were drawn up by the biggest crooks in Malta’s history, who have yet to serve time.
I am not Nostradamus but it is inevitable that the building in Smart City at some point in the future will be used for commercial purposes and the AUM will be no more.
Clauses in contracts have a tendency to change!!!
Beleaguered is a very polite way of saying failed … this time next year, it will be a hotel ..