A massive project to complete Malta’s main road tunnels, completed last year despite delays and almost €5 million over budget, is already showing signs of decay, with a contractor involved in the original project being handed a direct order to fix them.
Severe damages can be observed in the Regional Road tunnels leading to Swieqi and Paceville. These include plaster coming off the tunnel interiors and whitewashed walls, unsuitable for such a project, turning black.
The same can be observed in all other tunnels upgraded as part of the project, which cost taxpayers over €17 million. Furthermore, there are instances of water seeping through the walls from flooding every time it rains.
Despite the questionable quality of the works and the inflated price tag, one of the contractors involved in the so-called upgrade project has now been handed a new direct order worth €350,000, according to the latest information published in the Government Gazette.
Instead of issuing a new tender for repairs to be carried out in the tunnels, Infinite Fusion Services Ltd, owned by Liam Ferriggi, a business associate of Labour pollster Vince Marmara, was given a direct order to carry out the work “following accidental damages by third parties”.
The €12.5 million tender for the initial project was awarded to Bifra JV, a consortium including Ferriggi’s company, to perform the upgrading works in 2020 with a finish date in 2021.
The project was not completed until 2022, and during that time, an additional 11 direct orders were issued for “additional works”, boosting the project’s cost by 40%.
Apart from Ferriggi’s company, the joint venture included a company controlled by Valerio Camilleri, known as Il-Hawsla, of Construct Furniture, and a company from Naples, Italy.
Infrastructure Malta architects certified the original €17 million works, which are already failing.
€21 million new direct orders in six months
According to recent direct orders data, Infrastructure Malta continued to carry out its major infrastructure road works using direct orders rather than a transparent public procurement process.
Using the so-called ‘framework contract’, in which agency officials subjectively select contractors for its projects, a total of 122 direct orders were issued during the first six months of this year, worth €20.8 million.
In some instances, the value of direct orders reached over €1 million each.
Among the beneficiaries are large contractors who have been receiving millions in handouts from the same agency for the past years.
Schembri Barbros Ltd was one of the main recipients, with two direct orders of €1.3 million and €1.5 million for works at Ta’ Qali and the Malta Film Studios on behalf of the Malta Film Commission.
Philip Aguis and Sons Ltd were given a €1.4 million direct order for works in Zurrieq and another €1 million for works in Mosta to upgrade a roundabout.
Landscaping works at the delayed Luqa Junction cost taxpayers over €1 million, given to GEB landscaping, while T&C Ciappara Construction received €1.1 million for roadworks related to the incinerator project in Maghtab by Wasteserv.
Crowdnet, the business firm of Labour official William Lewis, a regular on the government’s direct orders list, was given three direct orders for road design and other services worth over €100,000.
Former PN Minister George Pullicino was also on the list and paid €45,000 for design and consultation services on Hamrun roads.