Aqra dan l-artiklu bil-Malti
The Court Services Agency, the government department which administers civil and criminal proceedings in Malta’s Courts of Justice was found to have “consistently bypassed” procurement regulations and kept “inadequate” documentation, according to a recent report by the National Audit Office.
The agency, which falls under the remit of Justice Minister Jonathan Attard, with Eunice Grech Fiorini serving as its CEO, was found to have irregular procurement practices which included expired contracts, services acquired without a contract, and an abuse of the direct order system.
The office’s findings for the agency tally with the audit conclusions for several other government departments and agencies, relating to irregularities, abuse, and maladministration.
Over the past week, The Shift has reported on how many such ministerial departments were found to have repeatedly and consistently abused of procurement regulations, with inadequate or non-existent operating procedures in place.
In its report, the office noted how “public procurement regulations were consistently bypassed” by the agency. It found contracts which had expired or had been irregularly extended, payments for services not covered by a contract at all, and direct orders given to the same service providers.
Exemplifying the issue, the NAO noted how a contract for the provision of vehicles to court marshals was still being used, despite officially expiring in 2021. The situation resulted from an irregular extension of more than two years not covered by the original awarded tender.
Similar issues were found in the procurement of clerical, security, and other transportation services. The report detailed how these were found to be made precariously through direct orders, irregularly extended, and not covered by a contractual agreement respectively.
The office noted in several cases that data requested from the agency was not provided, leading them to label it a “compliance issue.” Service performance guarantees, insurance policies and employee documentation were all not made available for review. The missing documentation included clean bills of police conduct for personnel transporting sensitive court materials.
The NAO report confirms The Shift’s flagging of irregular procurement procedures at the agency. Last year, the CSA was in the process of procuring vehicles for judges and magistrates from Prime Minister Robert Abela’s close friend, car dealer Chrisitan Borg.
The €3 million contract, which was going to be awarded to Borg while he faced charges of kidnapping and was being investigated for drug dealing and money laundering, was later cancelled following pressure by the judiciary.
Last year, the Court Services Agency also blocked information on the appointment and payment of court experts, delaying The Shift’s Freedom of Information (FOI) requests by months, in breach of the law.
The court agency has even been faced with criticism from the judiciary itself, with Judge Ian Spiteri Bailey this year claiming its inefficiencies and maladministration is leading to miscarriages of justice.