Auditor General ignored as tourism agency persists in breaching rules

A tourism-related government agency persists in breaching public procurement rules despite a stiff warning from the National Audit Office (NAO) last year.

According to new information published in the Government Gazette, the Tourism Zones Regeneration Agency recruited several employees last year without any competition and against established rules.

The employees were given short-term direct contracts, renewed every few months, in what seems to be an approach to bypass rules.

Between March and September 2023, at least 13 employees were recruited and put on the government payroll through this irregular system, costing taxpayers some €150,000 in salaries.

Some of the employees recruited by the tourism ministry.

Despite the National Audit Office’s warning last year, the minister and the agency’s chairperson, Andre Zammit (a former aide of former Minister Edward Zammit Lewis), have ignored the NAO.

Last year, the Auditor General said that based on an audit of the agency’s 2021 accounts, Minister Clayton Bartolo’s agency had “serious governance issues”.

The audit found that in 2021, around 22 individuals were given “relatively short” contracts of service with the agency, which cost €206,000.

The work was awarded without a call for expressions of interest, and upon expiration, the agreements were “repeatedly renewed”.

These agreements covered small jobs such as maintenance services, beach supervision as well as light office duties.

The NAO also found complete disregard for other procurement rules, including several direct-order purchases without the necessary approvals.

EU funds go to Kasco’s associate

Last year, some €76,000 of EU funds were spent on direct orders given to ‘friends’ of the Labour Party and a select group of media organisations, including the commercial arms of the two main political parties.

According to a list of direct orders published in the Government Gazette covering the second semester of 2023, Streetmedia Ltd, a company owning advertising screens in public bus stops, led by Adrian Sillato, a close associate and former director at Keith Schembri’s Kasco Ltd, was given some €6,000 in advertising by the EU Funds Ministry.

Tens of thousands of euro were also given to The Times of Malta, Malta Today and the political party media outlets to run adverts on an EU funding programme between Malta and Italy.

Saviour Balzan’s Media Today was also awarded an additional direct order of more than €8,000 for ‘newspaper digest’ services.

The direct orders were issued when EU funds were the responsibility of Transport Minister Chris Bonett.

                           

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Lawrence Mifsud
Lawrence Mifsud
27 days ago

All for a good cause…..although the only one I can see is not a good cause!

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