NAO unaware of shooting range settlement as PAC scrutiny begins

Officials from the National Audit Office (NAO) said they are unaware of the out-of-court settlement between the government and the Bonnici Brothers regarding the severe defects and bad workmanship at the Ta’ Kandja shooting range.

Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) started reviewing the controversial €13 million project following revelations by The Shift that Sportmalta and the Bonnici Brothers reached an agreement that led to the withdrawal of the court cases filed against each other.

When asked to give details on the still unpublished settlement, Auditor General Charles Deguara told MPs, “Our audit finished in 2020, and we were not informed what happened after,” he told the committee.

The NAO audit had described the 2017 project as an exercise in maladministration, tarnished with excessive costs and not covered by any contracts.

Following the NAO findings, Sportmalta initiated court proceedings against the Bonnici Brothers to recover the payments for the substandard works while Bonnici filed a counterclaim for additional payments.

The Shift revealed that the two court cases were suddenly withdrawn last February after the parties informed the Court that they had settled their disputes.

The settlement was reached after a report was submitted by Architect Valerio Schembri, who was paid €10,000 to act as a mediator.

So far, the government has refused to reveal the settlement’s contents.

PN MP Carm Mifsud Bonnici’s attempts to obtain a copy of the agreement were turned down in parliament by Education Minister Clifton Grima.

From the outset, the shooting range project was plagued by controversy and allegations of corruption, and the initial cost estimate of €7 million escalated to €13 million.

Chris Bonett, the acting CEO at Sportmalta then, was responsible for the project and issued several unauthorised direct orders. Bonett is now Transport Minister.

The NAO audit found that 60 per cent of the direct orders were awarded to the Bonnici Brothers, who were closely connected to Prime Minister Robert Abela, their legal advisor at the time.

The NAO also discovered that the Bonnici Brothers had started approximately €2.3 million worth of work without a signed contract.

Apart from the exorbitant and unaccounted costs, the work lacked professionalism, resulting in a defective structure that was unusable for years.

According to a technical report drafted by Architect Robert Musumeci’s office, the work carried out by Bonnici Brothers was not up to standard, particularly on the long stretches of turf installed on site and the tunnels built underneath it.

The report concluded that the turf was laid incorrectly, the gravel underneath it was not compacted according to proper standards, and the underground tunnels were poorly constructed, leading to cracks in ceilings, walls, and even the floors.

Due to the poor workmanship, the range developed areas where rainwater could not drain, forming large puddles in various parts that made it almost impossible for sports enthusiasts to use.

                           

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Mike Gatt
Mike Gatt
10 days ago

I would be shocked if it was a straight deal, nothing is,

I guess they figured in for a penny in for a pound. Let’s milk it beyond dry.

If they do get caught they will give what the government can figure out was stolen and all is well.

Live to screw another day.

Paul Pullicino
Paul Pullicino
10 days ago

Government financial blow outs? Work not done according to proper standards? Direct orders of millions of euros? Always the same names.

wenzu
wenzu
10 days ago

project was plagued by controversy and allegations of corruption” modus operandi from the MLP.

Joseph
Joseph
10 days ago

To start with this shooting range is in with limit of living houses of Imqabba and Siggiewi. There are people that can work duty by night and rest during the day. And this shooting range was designed by no head people. They must have designed this somewhere that no one can hear more shooting in life. The Siggiewi residence are truly against this war shooting especially on Sunday in the afternoon.

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