Transport Malta set a new record for direct orders in the months before and immediately following the last general elections.
An analysis of new lists of direct orders awarded by the transport regulator between January and June 2022, published in the Government Gazette this week – over a year late – shows numerous irregularities and the skirting of public procurement rules.
While most direct orders were issued under former transport minister Ian Borg’s political remit that lasted until March 2022, a significant number of irregularities also took place on the watch of his replacement, current Transport Minister Aaron Farrugia.
Borg was sidelined to the Foreign Ministry after the last general elections by Prime Minister Robert Abela and was kept at arm’s length from Transport Malta’s big budgets and large tenders.
Two companies given 26 direct orders in two days
Two companies involved in the hiring of human resources for Transport Malta were given a record 13 direct orders each on the same day.
In what must be a unique record, B&A Manpower Company Ltd was tasked with providing clerical services for the transport regulator.
While receiving 24 separate direct orders for the same service in six months, costing taxpayers €525,000, 13 were awarded on the same day on 12 April 2022.
It is unclear whether Finance Minister Clyde Caruana gave the required go-ahead for this gross irregularity.
Set up in 2018, B&A Manpower Ltd is owned by Jean Karl Abela and Roderick Borg and began providing services to Transport Malta as soon as it was incorporated.
Gold Guard Security Serviced Ltd also had a bonanza of direct orders to provide clerical services. A total of 18 direct orders worth €424,000 were issued in six months. Thirteen of those direct orders were awarded the same day – 16 April 16, 2022, which was a Saturday.
The security company based in Rabat, Minister Ian Borg’s electoral district, is owned by Giorgiana Lupu – a Romanian citizen. Her partner is Stephen Ciangura, former MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando’s one-time bodyguard, who is also involved in other security companies, including Executive Security Services. The latter is also a regular feature on the government’s direct orders list.
BI Ventures – a construction company co-owned by Valerio Camilleri, also known as Il-Hawsla, was given 12 separate direct orders during the same election period to the value of €115,000. Most of the work done through those direct orders was not specified except for work done at the Transport Malta building in Sa Maison.
This is the same building where disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat is occupying an office to conduct his private business off taxpayers’ backs and with the ‘tolerance’ of his successor Prime Minister Robert Abela.
A never-ending list of the usual suspects
The new list of 380 direct orders includes many of the usual suspects awarded tens of thousands of euros in direct orders by the government in recent years.
On the legal services list, Rabat-based lawyer and former Labour candidate Chris Cilia, Parliamentary Secretary Andy Ellul, Lucio Sciriha, Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo’s Gatt Vassallo & Associates and Marouska Debono, who used to work with former Minister Edward Zammit Lewis, feature prominently.
A company that presents a programme on Labour’s ONE TV, D&B Music Ltd, was given €6,000 for “a TV show on One TV”. At the same time, another Labour television presenter, Joseph Chetcuti, was paid €7,000 for “promotion and interviews” by Transport Malta.
Gadgets Ltd which produces state-sponsored programmes on TVM, was awarded another €10,000 for a “sustainable mobility promotion”.
PAMA gets direct order for €5,000 for milk
Many other direct orders are raising eyebrows among Transport Malta insiders.
A direct order for €5,084 was awarded to PAMA Supermarket for the purchase of milk.
Former Armed Forces of Malta architect Robert Vella received five direct orders in a single day worth €168,000 for “professional services”.
The same architect had been paid tens of thousands of euros just a year earlier for the construction of the fast-ferry terminal in Valletta. The project had to be started over from scratch after a storm destroyed it.
Labour Party Deputy Leader Daniel Micallef was tasked with “enforcement supervisory services” and was contracted €10,000 by direct order.
General Workers Union was paid more than €500,000 to lease its premises at A3 Towers in Paola to Transport Malta.
Pope Francis also found himself on Transport Malta’s direct orders list as the government agency issued two direct orders worth €10,000 for the supply of “refreshments during the Pope’s visit”.