The Lands Authority, through its lawyer Vincienne Vella, has filed an appeal against a decision taken by the Commissioner of Data Protection in favour of The Shift at the Court of Appeal, bypassing the Tribunal stage of the process entirely.
Instead of handing over information on direct orders to various companies, as ordered by the Commissioner, the government’s lawyer filed an appeal in Court. She ignored the law stipulating that an appeal must first be filed at the Tribunal.
The Shift’s Freedom of Information request to the Lands Authority was for a copy of framework contracts and projects given to different contractors for repair and maintenance works.
The request was made following information sent to The Shift that some officials at the Lands Authority and the ministry were using these contracts to direct work towards favoured providers.
The Authority initially claimed it could not provide the information as it would be too cumbersome to collect and would “stall the internal workings of the Authority”. Later, the Authority turned to commercial sensitivity as an excuse.
While the data commissioner ruled in favour of The Shift in April 2023, the Lands Authority refused to abide by the decision and kept the information under wraps.
In its reply to the latest legal challenge, The Shift’s lawyers, BCGL advocates, argued that the case should be dismissed as the Lands Authority did not follow due process in an attempt to withhold information that was in the public interest.
In connection with this investigation, The Shift had also asked how many contracts were given during the past years to Cubed Turnkey Projects Ltd, owned by Simon Muscat, the owner of Manoel Island Service Station.
Sources had told The Shift that Muscat was given many direct orders, including refurbishing the Lands Authority headquarters, the Auberge de Baviere, in a project worth hundreds of thousands of euro.