Lands Minister Silvio Schembri is refusing to explain why he ordered the Lands Authority to cancel a large tender for legal services that had already been awarded to a substantial number of lawyers.
The minister has evaded questions from The Shift as well as parliamentary questions and has so far only given vague replies about his actions.
Asked by Opposition MP Rebekah Borg to explain why the tender – aimed at instilling a degree of transparency at the Lands Authority – had been cancelled after it was awarded, the minister simply said that “the Lands Authority’s exigencies had changed”.
Without giving any details, Schembri, whose conduct with the Lands Authority under his ministerial remit is raising a lot of questions, said that since the tender process “took a lot of time”, the Authority decided that the “work can be done differently and better”.
Some lawyers who were awarded the tender, only to be informed later that it had been cancelled, contended with The Shift that the minister’s excuses were factually incorrect and did not hold water.
“The tender was a result of a National Audit Office report which criticised the use of direct orders for the selected few who have the usual political connections,” one aggrieved lawyer said.
“It seems that the minister is more comfortable paying tens of thousands of euros to his friends and party loyalists than opening up the process to all those eligible in a transparent manner,” another said.
The minister’s assertions in parliament that the tender process had taken long and “a lot of time has passed” is untrue.
The tender, CT2163/2021, had been published in February 2022 during the last electoral campaign.
Bids closed a month later, in March 2022, and the winning bidders were announced in June 2022.
The entire process was conducted on Minister Schembri’s watch.
Politically appointed lawyers who have already been working for the Lands Authority through direct orders also applied for the tender. These included former Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana and Luke Dalli, the son of former Labour Minister and Malta’s current European Commissioner Helena Dalli.
Others, however, did not participate in the bidding process. These include Labour Party President Ramona Attard, former Lands Parliamentary Secretary Deborah Schembri and her consultant at the time, Labour apologist Robert Musumeci.
These three, together with Justyne Caruana who has now been assigned all the Authority’s legal work in Gozo, have been raking in tens of thousands of euros a year from the Authority’s direct orders.
Schembri’s tender cancellation will mean that Attard, Schembri, Musumeci and Caruana can keep receiving the bulk of the legal fees the Authority pays out.
Minister Schembri has not replied to questions about whether the Authority intends to issue a new tender.
Is the minister aware of the number of times the present Lands Authority lawyers fail to show up in court when aggrieved persons make it a point to be in court and in some cases come from abroad specifically for the court sitting? If the present lawyers are not coping with the cases then Minister is simply irresponsible in shelving the tender for more lawyers. No consideration whatsoever for the citizen.
he is fully aware but he doesn’t care less.
This Minister (but not only) needs a strong guide book on his ethical responsibilities to be drummed and repeatedly spelt out.
He and others have become too big headed who make their own rules.
The higher they go up the harder the fall.
Minister Block Chain Island is really an arrogant and an incompetent individual. Being so much full of himself, he miserably failed to deliver, as a Minister, what would have otherwise been a brilliant idea of creating a digital economy for Malta.
Shouldn’t he be at school?
His arrogance has also been reflected at Airmalta where he kept employing tal qalba whilst he was already aware it was going bust.
it is becoming very clear by now that in these types of tenders there is a substantial cut which goes to certain public persons and their election campaigns.
Marret ahjar minn meta kienet ministru mela.X ma tghajjatx sriep u Laburista sal mewt.Hallelin
Silvio a schembri is PM Abela’s strong alley and lackey.
Silvio Schembri is PM Abela’s strong alley and lackey.