A new primary school in Msida, meant to be completed in 2019, has seen its budget continue to soar, with no completion date in sight after already facing long delays due to poor-quality construction.
Construction on the school started some six years ago, but it had to be rebuilt after problems with the quality of the work came to light, sending costs through the roof.
The school will now cost €22 million, around €12 million more than previous government estimates, according to a government statement. It will be part-financed by the EU’s COVID-19 recovery scheme, despite EU warnings about the funds’ use.
The statement hailed the school as a budgetary measure that will result in “the largest investment in education infrastructure,” failing to mention the school’s original budget and the fact it should have been finished years ago.
The school was first announced in 2017 by then-education minister Evarist Bartolo and was set to open its doors in September 2019 with a price tag of €3.3 million.
In 2022, construction on the school had to be halted halfway through, and the structure was demolished due to severe structural defects found by architects.
A €7 million direct order to perform remedial works was given to PRA Construction Ltd, owned by Gozitan developer Joseph Portelli and two of his associates, Mark Agius and Daniel Refalo.
The company was then handed another €10 million contract for mechanical, electrical and finishing works at the school.
The project is being led by the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools, headed by Neville Young. The government agency is tasked with the design, construction and maintenance of schools.
Some €7 million ploughed into the school project was squeezed into the European Union’s Recover and Resilience Plan (RRP) for Malta. The EU-funded scheme was aimed at helping member states recover from the setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The project’s inclusion took place despite warnings from Brussels that the funds should not be used to replace national expenditure.
Speaking at a press conference at the school that is still under construction, Education Minister Clifton Grima said the project demonstrates improvement in education infrastructure in the country, but no completion date was given.
Questions sent to the minister were not answered.