Government awards late, overbudget pool as its ‘project of the year’

A €14 million Olympic-sized pool at the Cottonera Sports Complex, which missed its completion target for use during the Small Nations Games last year, was declared by the Chief of the Civil Service Tony Sultana as the government’s ‘Project of the Year’.

Guests who attended the glitzy Public Service Awards night last weekend at the Mediterranean Conference Centre told The Shift that they thought the announcement was a joke, given that everyone in the civil service was well aware of the extent of the project’s mess.

The construction of a new Olympic-sized pool that would form part of the Cottonera Sports Complex was announced in 2015. It was earmarked as one of the main projects to be completed for the Small Nations Games in May 2023, which were hosted in Malta.

The public service awards.

However, works on the complex took three years longer than scheduled, and the original budget of €8 million for the completion of the project had to be abandoned as actual costs ballooned to a staggering €14 million.

The National Audit Office has not yet audited the project awarded to V&C contractors, a company owned by Vince Borg, better known as Ċensu n-Nizz.

Despite the ballooning costs, the government agency SportMalta did not complete the project in time for the GSSE games. As a result, the organisers had to shift the organisation to the Tal-Qroqq national pool, built for the Small Nations Games of 1992, where all the swimming competitions for the 2023 games were eventually held.

Due to the delays, the Cottonera pool was only inaugurated in December 2023. Even then, it was not sufficiently completed for aquatic competitions as most of the necessary equipment was still missing.

Mark Cutajar, the CEO of SportMalta and the person who oversaw the failures to complete several venues for the GSSE games, did not attend the ceremony to pick the ‘Project of the Year Award’ from the Head of the civil service. Instead, he sent a representative.

Unfinished GSSE projects included an incomplete €16 million pool in Victoria, Gozo, a €3 million tennis complex in Pembroke that was still in its initial phase, and a €9 million indoor squash and weightlifting complex in Marsa that had yet to have its foundations laid.

Permanent Secretary Ronald Mizzi, facing criminal charges, sat at the top table during the award ceremony.

The lavish ceremony organised by Tony Sultana included a formal dinner, music and even fireworks.

One of Sultana’s guests at the top table during the ceremony was Ronald Mizzi, the Economy Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, facing criminal charges concerning the hospitals’ fraudulent VGH/Steward concession.

                           

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Mari Borg
Mari Borg
19 days ago

At least it wasn’t the Concert Area that is too small to host any mass meeting, let alone a concert!!

These Public Service Awards are a farse .. a Resource Centre that caters exclusively for children with disabilty, and no inclusion exists, was even awarded the Inclusivity Award!! When there are loads of other government entities that cater for true inclusivity. But for us, inclusivity is equal to putting disabled children all in one school so as not to disturb the mainstream children!!

Sergio Grech
Sergio Grech
19 days ago

Whilst we’re on indoor pools, why is the one in Ta’Qali closed?

J Abela
J Abela
18 days ago
Reply to  Sergio Grech

I always questioned this, since they built this pool in Cottonera and are meant to be building another pool in Gozo (is it ready yet?). If I’m not mistaken they had said that there is no funds to upgrade the Ta’ Qali pool. I think the real reason is that there is a privately-run pool nearby that needs to be viable or more profitable. Worth investigating.

Last edited 18 days ago by J Abela
KLAUS
KLAUS
19 days ago

This reminds me very much of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe.
There they celebrated themselves for everyone and everything, but the population was forgotten.
Here, too, an occasion was simply invented.

The Eastern Bloc is long gone. It’s only a question of time….

Charles P
Charles P
18 days ago

This would have been comical, had it not been done out of our taxes. In this case, it is squander of public funds.

Kevin
Kevin
18 days ago

Shame on Mark Cutajar and his management ! This complex was promised to be used as well for the general public esp. Athletes or fitness persons in South region but to date its only available to these called elite sportsmen/women !!

makjavel
makjavel
18 days ago

If this is what for the government is the ” Project of the Year” then this government is run by incompetents with small brains and big pockets for filling.

J Abela
J Abela
18 days ago

The primary and most fundamental policy of the Labour Government was always ‘the end justifies the means” so it really doesn’t matter for them that the project was delayed, widely over-budget, didn’t serve its primary purpose, or was a vehicle for corruption. Mentioning, one would question what the ‘end’ for them was, whether the pool itself or the ‘back deals’.

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