Tista taqra dan l-artiklu bil-Malti.
The ongoing evaluation of bids to determine who should be awarded a 65-year government concession to turn the iconic Evans Building in lower Valletta into a luxury hotel has taken a new twist as the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) requested more time to find a ‘solution’.
As the government was expected to announce the winner last week, the Department of Contracts instead asked for more time so that problems encountered along the way could be ironed out.
The Shift is informed that in a surprise move, all bidders vying for the lucrative concession were asked individually to extend the validity of their bid by another three months, until the end of January, as the government requires more time to reach an outcome.
Bidders were also told that if they did not extend their bid, their offer would be considered cancelled, but sources told The Shift that all competing bidders agreed, thus remaining firmly in the race.
“The evaluation committee is still trying to come out with a possible legal solution to the various challenges presented to it by two problematic bidders who are still competing and are putting intense pressure on the prime minister to award them the concession,” the sources said.
“While the OPM is exerting pressure on the evaluation committee to decide in a certain direction, members are yet not very comfortable and want assurances that the consortium they recommend can finally withstand a legal challenge in court, which has become almost inevitable,” they added.
Two significant problems to solve
These include a financial offer of €41 million by Katari Hospitality of developer Paul Attard and a €1.2 million offer by Valletta Luxury Properties, owned by Eden Leisure Group of the Decesare families and Mark Weingard.
Other competitors include Iconic Hotel Malta – Nobu with the involvement of the Zammit Tabonas of Fortina, Hili’s HV Hospitality, AX Group of Anglu Xuereb, Seabank Group of Silvio Debono and Grant Thorton.
The biggest issue in the evaluation process involves the highest and the lowest bidders.
With a €41 million bid, Paul Attard’s Katari Holdings made the highest financial offer, closely followed by the second listed consortium, Iconic Hotel Malta.
According to the Request for Proposals (RFP), the evaluation is based on price and the technical offer’s quality.
The Shift revealed that Attard’s Katari Holdings bid hit a snag as it appears that the company’s financial data and accounts for the three years prior to the bid, a requirement in the tender, were substantially ‘corrected’ just a day after the government extended the deadline for submitting the initial bid.
The move raised suspicions of creative accounting practices to ensure Attard’s company reached the tender’s eligibility criteria.
Attard did not reply to questions on the matter. He is involved in several deals involving public land, his latest being his application to build blocks of flats on public land owned by Enemalta and the Lands Authority, formerly used for the Birzebbuga LPG facility.
Attard does not currently own this land, and both Energy Minister Miriam Dalli and the Lands Authority have failed to respond to questions from The Shift on the matter.
He was also lately involved in the land grab of a Mellieha green lung, at undervalued market prices by the Lands Authority, to transform into flats.
But Valletta Luxury Projects, the consortium that submitted the lowest offer, is also creating significant problems.
With a bid of €1.2 million, the Eden Leisure and Iniala businessmen were placed last by the Department of Contracts, at least in terms of their financial bid.
However, as soon as their bid was published, the consortium told the media that their offer was misinterpreted as it should be €78 million or €1.2 million per year.
Despite the public announcement, the consortium did not correct the bid submission and instead pressured the OPM to award them the concession.
All the other bidders oppose this, indicating to the OPM that the offer should be disqualified according to a breach in the procurement rules, and the government will likely face a stiff legal challenge in court if it awards them the concession.
Considering the complex situation, the government is seeking legal avenues to award the concession while avoiding any court challenges, with the new three-month grace period allowing them to do so.