Ta’ Qali ‘regeneration’ delayed until 2025 amid confusion on budget

While Public Works Minister Chris Bonett has announced the near-completion of a concert area at Ta’ Qali National Park, the €80 million project it forms part of remains incomplete despite initially being slated to open in 2022 at a quarter of the cost.

In a press release on Thursday, Bonett announced that works at a concerts area at the park “will soon be open to the public,” set to host “an international concert” by the end of the year.

The area forms part of a larger project for the park’s regeneration, originally announced in 2019 at a cost of €20 million.

Following years of delays, the project’s cost quadrupled to €80 million, according to its website, amid concerns raised by the National Audit Office of the project’s “weak internal controls over expenditure,” opaque deadlines and contractual “uncertainties.”

By mid-2023, a year after the project was initially set to be finished, only two of its six phases had been completed. These included upgrades to the BOV Adventure Park, the construction of a new parking lot and the rebuilding of a square opposite the US embassy.

During a visit to the site this week, Bonett was accompanied by Jason Micallef, the head of the Ta’ Qali Park management unit created for the project.

Micallef, also Chairman of the Valletta Cultural Agency, was appointed to head the unit following his exit from the Labour Party’s One News, where he served as chairman.

Delays, changes and budgets

Responding to The Shift’s questions on the project’s delays, Micallef said it was “on track,” noting that the Covid-19 pandemic had significantly delayed it.

Asked about its initial deadline, Micallef said, “We had never definitively said it would be complete by 2022 – it was meant to be at an advanced stage by then.”

Upon the project’s announcement in October 2019 alongside disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat, former Capital Projects Minister Ian Borg had said the aim was for the project to be completed by 2022. The deadline was also noted by the National Audit Office in its report last year.

In justifying delays, Micallef also said: “Once the project had commenced, we decided on adding further works.” These, Micallef added, included car parks that were originally not part of the project and were “added as we were going along as they were deemed necessary.”

Micallef went on to say “2024 is a very big year for the Ta’ Qali project, but we definitely need next year too to be able to say that we’re close to completion.”

“We’re very happy with the progress of the regeneration and how it is unfolding at the moment,” he said.

Asked about the increase in the project’s budget, originally set to be €20 million, Micallef said “the original budget only covered two parts of the current project.”

“We are estimating the project will cost between €60 and €64 million once it is complete,” he added.

Asked about the revised €80 million budget for the project, listed on the front page of its website, four times larger than initial estimates, Micallef said “he was involved from the very first day” and that he was not aware of such a figure.

He said, “The initially published capital expenditure was €20 million, but then we decided that the regeneration should be larger – I don’t remember an €80 million budget.”

The €80 million budget for the project, as published on its website. Photo: maltanationalpark.mt

                           

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A. Fan
A. Fan
1 month ago

Jobs for the boys; and more photo opps for Ministers and their sundry sidekicks to ‘officially inaugurate’ various parts of yet another hyped-up bogus project. I think Borg’s ‘grand opening’ plaque by the fountain is now going on its third year…

Mick
Mick
1 month ago

80million, more likely 100million and no completion date, the money still needs washing and general construction is scaling down, so keep this in limbo so the money can still be washed.

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