Malta’s tunnels’ maintenance cost its taxpayers €4.6 million extra

Following last year’s revelations by ‘The Shift News’ web news portal, that the maintenance of four Maltese road tunnels had run into millions of euros in extra costs, the Malta Government Gazette (MGG) has now confirmed that, besides the works’ completion being 12 months overdue, the “additional costs” have ballooned to €4.6 million, over and above the original tender’s €12.5 million.

The tender had originally been awarded in 2020 to Bifra JV and covered the maintenance of the Sta. Venera, Msida (Tal-Qroqq), Regional Road (Ta’ Giorni), and Kirkop (under airport runway) tunnels. However, variations and direct orders over various periods of time by the Finance Ministry saw the conducted “additional works” adding costs to around 40% more of the original tender’s value, totalling to €17.1 million.

There were 11 direct orders and variations, yet ‘The Shift News‘ claims that while these additional costs fell outside the scope of the tender issued, there remain still other of such pilled-on works which still are to be billed and paid out.

An analysis of the public information published in the MGG goes far to demonstrate that the direct orders and variations were spread out of time in an effort of not inducing any suspicions or draw attention to them. These were spread over five individual variations and direct orders in the second half of 2020, while an additional six in the latter half of 2021. Among these billings, were some which totalled to €1 million apiece.

The Bifra JV consortium benefitting from all this is made up of the road construction Italian firm Infram srl from Naples, Construct Furniture’s Valerio ‘il-Hawsla’ Camilleri and one of its shareholders, namely Liam Ferriggi who is tied up in other business ventures with the Labour Party survey-pollster, Dr Vincent Marmara.

Construct Furniture’s
Valerio ‘il-Hawsla’ Camilleri
Liam Ferriggi, Managing Director of
Infinite Fusion Technologies Ltd

Such direct orders fell under the remit of Infrastructure Malta (IM), under the helm of Ing. Frederick Azzopardi and his Minister, Dr Ian Borg. In 2018, government had announced an investment of €700 million through IM, “for the development, maintenance and upgrading of all public infrastructure in Malta.”

Dr Borg was, after the general elections of last march, reassigned to the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s portfolio; while Ing. Attard was employed by mega-catering firm, James Caterers, also regular winners of awarded government contracts of all sorts.

Sources close to ‘The Shift News‘ web news portal agree that all additional costs and their staggered timings were a ‘mise en scène‘ with zero chances of them being coincidences. While all these shenanigans stick out like sore thumbs out of the pages of the published MGG, it remains unknown as yet whether the National Audit Office (NAO) will be looking into these extra costs over the original tender’s allocated budgets. Or if said extra works carried out are really worth the taxpayers’ monies, for all that matters.

Normal tendering have long followed protocols and procedures that see the evaluation of offers received before the tenders are actually published for bidders to submit their bids as close as possible to the tender’s estimated value. Yet, once awarded, it has become typical and prevalent in this last decade or so, that ‘variations’ or additional works, coupled with direct orders as well, swell the tender’s project final costs. And this has been mostly exemplified by no other than the IM agency, especially on the Central Link project of Attard and the Marsa flyovers’ project.