Court fines Lands Authority for frivolous appeal against The Shift

Sitting in the Court of Appeal, Judge Lawrence Mintoff has thrown out an appeal filed by the Lands Authority against The Shift in the latest attempt to conceal and delay the provision of information about its operations.

In his decision, Judge Mintoff fined the Lands Authority double the case costs after concluding that the court action was frivolous and without any legal basis.

The case concerned the Data Protection Commissioner’s decision to order the Lands Authority to supply The Shift with information about its framework contracts and the invoices for the work carried out through these direct contracts.

After upholding The Shift’s Freedom of Information request in April 2023, the Commissioner ordered the government authority to supply the requested information. However, the authority, run by government-appointed Chairman John Vassallo and CEO Robert Vella, did not comply.

Instead, they filed an appeal in court, challenging both the Shift and the Data Protection Commissioner’s decision.

Following the submissions, the Court dismissed the appeal, declaring that the government authority had not followed the correct procedure when filing its appeal. According to the law, the appeal should have been filed before the Tribunal first and not in court.

The Shift has been investigating how the Lands Authority is awarding its contracts over several years after complaints that they are being given to the same group of companies close to certain Lands Authority officials.

Simon Muscat (R) having a drink with his friend Clint Scerri (L), known as ‘The King’ of the Lands Authority

While the Authority, particularly CEO Robert Vella, has always tried to avoid giving any answers, The Shift discovered that one of the most frequent recipients of contracts is Simon Muscat, the owner of the controversial Manuel Island Service Station through a company called Cubed Turnkey Projects Ltd.

Muscat is the same person who wanted to move his petrol station inside the only garden in Gzira, which led to the clash between Mayor Conrad Borg Manche and Prime Minister Robert Abela.

The Lands Authority had already approved Muscat’s encroachment on the Gzira garden. However, a court decision stopped this.

Muscat is very close to Clint Scerri, better known as ‘the King of Lands, ’ who was embroiled in the Gaffarena scandal that led to Minister Michael Falzon’s removal.

Following the Court’s latest decision, the Lands Authority has been ordered to supply The Shift with the requested information, including all framework contracts and related invoices, within 20 days.

                           

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8 Comments
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Carmelo borg
1 month ago

Thks the shift BOJKOTT IL PETROL STATION tas sur MUSCAT hdejn MANWEL ISLAND PETROL STATION..
DAL GHODU FUQ RTK MA ANDREW AZZOPARDI BORG MANCHE QAL LI DAN IL BRAVU IPPROVA JIXTRIH

gODWIN dALLI
gODWIN dALLI
1 month ago

Impunity Lejber style. And now who is going to pay the fine? I suggest that these 2 persons should pay, as these 2 arrogant persons should not be accomodated with a cushy job. What are your comments now Mr Prime Minister? Jew paroli biss

Robert pace bonello
Robert pace bonello
1 month ago

Taxpayer paying the taxpayer. Where is the accountability?

Austin
Austin
1 month ago

Good job guys.
keep it up.
hope that hidden info reveals (once again) these crook’s names

Last edited 1 month ago by Austin
Hopeless
Hopeless
1 month ago

The strategy of refusing questions is the same adopted by the PM and ministers who do not have the courage to face difficult questions. This reveals two things: (i) they are pure and simple cowards with no backbone; they are only able to answer friendly, pre-agreed questions. At least Everist Bartolo had the courage to face a foreign journalist and pretend not to cringe. But he had the courage. This new breed is simply spineless; (ii) most of us, as voters, are a dumb community and are prepared to follow and vote for someone even if s/he is taking us for a ride (and probably laughing at us behind our backs). Our uncritical minds are like blotting paper over which ink is spilled and we can well imagine what happens to that paper when it absorbs the ink. Our reactions to false prophets and others who pose as leaders is pitiful. A politician should have the courage to face journalists and answer hard questions; ours are cardboard individuals playing at politics (often to their exclusive benefit).

makjavel
makjavel
1 month ago

These court judgements are a farce in the face of the tax payers. The fines will be paid by the tax payers not from the pocket of the guilty.
Nothing will happen to the guilty two. This is NOT JUSTICE.

Joseph Said
Joseph Said
1 month ago

Information should be given immediately not within 20 days. Take hold of the computer network system within the Lands Authority and I am sure you will find other data that you were not expecting. Digital data does not take days to retrieve. Do not give time for them to remove evidence.

Dave Alan Caruana
Dave Alan Caruana
24 days ago

Until fines of this sort are passed on to the persons responsible for illegal decisions they will remain toothless. The lands authority itself can afford to pay any amount of fines as they have access to the people’s purse. Illegal decisions like this are taken not by an abstract government entity but by particular individuals.

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