Ta’ Qali park project quadruples in cost with ‘weak internal controls’ – NAO

An over budget and still unfinished project to regenerate and upgrade the Ta’ Qali National Park, was found to have “weak internal controls over expenditure,” opaque deadlines and contractual “uncertainties” in a National Audit Office (NAO) report published on Monday.

The project, undertaken by the Infrastructure and Planning Ministries and announced in 2019, was meant to be completed last year.

It remains unfinished and by the end of 2022, it had exceeded its €20 million budget twofold, with its total cost expected to reach almost €80 million.

In its report, the NAO “encountered challenges” from the ministries, who “did not cooperate fully during the course of the audit.” It said deadlines for information “were at times not respected even when set by the ministry itself.”

The report noted how “by end 2021, the amount originally budgeted (€20 million) was revised to over €75 million”. The audit office was told this was done to “cater for all the required work suitable for a National Park of the desired calibre.”

The NAO’s investigation was limited in scope since only two of the project’s six phases have been completed. Nevertheless, the audit office found “a generally weak internal control environment over expenditure,” already undertaken for the project.

Despite only a third of the project being completed, by the end of 2022, the NAO found that almost €40 million had been spent.

The weak control environment stemmed from “unclear dates of completion for works” and an absence of financial performance guarantees for some sections of the work undertaken. This meant “the ministry was not adequately covered in case of default by the respective contractors.”

Upgrades to the Ta’ Qali Adventure Park, which formed part of the project, were given extensions, which the NAO found were “retroactively approved.” Due to unclear and opaque invoicing procedures, the audit office “could not establish what was actually charged” by the contractors in some cases.

The lack of transparency on deadlines and approved works, which sometimes had “no evidence that they were duly authorised”, led to an “uncertainty on whether penalty clauses were enforceable,” according to the office.

When procuring lighting designs for the entire project, the NAO found that “no contract for service was entered into,” with the chosen foreign contractor employed on a consultancy basis, invoicing for work later than allowed by direct order regulations.

Payments for billboard advertisements for the project also raised questions, with the NAO noting that their purchase may not have been duly approved through the appropriate channels.

The NAO also found that the payments for lighting design and billboard advertising, issued through direct orders, were not published on the government gazette within the required timeframe.

The National Park project was launched in May 2019 under disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat. Former environment minister Jose Herrera had said the government’s Ambjent Malta department, now known as Tisbiħ Malta, was to manage the site.

Former Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg had spearheaded the project alongside former Planning Authority chief executive Johann Buttigieg.

The project’s first two phases, which saw upgrades to the Adventure Park, the construction of a new parking lot, and the rebuilding of a square opposite the United States Embassy, were completed in March 2022 and announced by Borg and Prime Minister Robert Abela ahead of the 2022 general elections.

                           

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Anne R. key
Anne R. key
2 months ago

Oh well, a couple of PL lackeys need to replace their luxury boats and cars – what better way than this eh!

KLAUS
KLAUS
2 months ago
Reply to  Anne R. key

🤪How about tarring and feathering🪶🪶🪶?

Steve
Steve
2 months ago

This is a very good tree planting project

makjavel
makjavel
2 months ago

Up to now this government only managed to spend money , borrow €1000 million every year ,over spend all the projects that were started , but never completed.
They all made their friends RICH by direct orders , over costing projects that never end.
No wonder the Ministers do not answer the incisive Parliamentary Questions ( PQ’s) .
Alibaba and the 40 Thieves were a bunch of pick pockets near this Labour Cabinet.

Judy
Judy
2 months ago

It is better to fix and resurface pavements and roads as these are far more important as they are dangerous in many places .This project can wait first important things first

Matt
Matt
2 months ago
Reply to  Judy

Yes, let us throw our money at the biggest of the scams.
Roads closed for 2-6 months when in most of Europe there would be a public inquiry if the work took longer than 7 days!

You’re maybe missing the biggest con, just because it gives you a nice road.

M.Galea
M.Galea
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt

Bingo! all the projects including roads are being done to make themselves rich!! But the gullible havent figured it yet!

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