Updated at 6.30pm, adds ministry’s reaction
The Gozo Ministry is allocating jobs on major projects to a particular architectural firm without any call for tenders, the Times of Malta is informed.
Sources in Gozo said that architect Frank Muscat and his firm, The Doric Studio, were awarded most if not all major projects since the change at the helm of the Gozo Ministry in June 2017.
The assignments ranged from the drawing up of a new master plan for Comino to works on a shelter for Gozitans in a villa in Birkirkara.
Mr Muscat and his firm had already been given various jobs at the time Justyne Caruana was parliamentary secretary responsible for St Vincent de Paul Residence in Luqa, before she succeeded Anton Refalo as Gozo Minister, the sources commented.
“For some reason, Mr Muscat’s expertise is now being used for almost all the main projects connected to the Gozo Ministry, with tens of thousands of euros being paid to his firm without any form of tender being issued,” the sources said.
Worse, we are even being excluded from competing
The works awarded to Mr Muscat and his studio since Dr Caruana moved into the Gozo Ministry included the design and execution of the Comino master plan, the regeneration of the main square at Xewkija – the minister’s home town; the development of the long-awaited breakwater in Marsalforn; the building of an old people’s home in Għajnsielem and the restoration and refurbishment of Villa Lauri in Birkirkara that would serve as a shelter for Gozitan students and families of patients receiving treatment in Maltese hospitals, the sources said.
This “irked” some Gozitan architects who “expect” a share of the government-generated work, the sources noted.
“Worse, we are even being excluded from competing,” one of the aggrieved architects told Times of Malta, pointing out that Mr Muscat had also replaced the Gozo Ministry’s in-house architect, Angelo Portelli, on the building of the Għajnsielem home, “just because [Mr Portelli] happened to work with Anton Refalo”.
Asked to say why the Gozo Ministry was directing many of its projects to the same architect, a spokesman for Dr Caruana directed the Times of Malta to a set of questions tabled by Gozitan Nationalist MP Chris Said in Parliament on the same subject.
“The questions were already answered in Parliament,” he said.
However, the replies given in Parliament lacked details, except for a question on the Għajnsielem home, in which the minister acknowledged that Mr Muscat had replaced the ministry’s architect and had, so far, been paid €28,000 in fees.
In similar replies to different questions put, the minister told Dr Said “consultants are procured according to established procedures, paid through fixed rates, as used to happen under previous administrations”.
Following the publication of the article, the ministry said an expression of interest for architectural services was issued on October 25, 2017.
The call was uploaded on the ministry’s website and published in several newspapers.
Moreover, on May 9, 2018, the ministry also issued a tender for a framework agreement and a number of architects who submitted an offer were engaged.
The ministry was also using the services of its own architects and it had issued a call for the employment of more architects.
This, it said, showed the ministry’s commitment towards the implementation of a large number of projects.
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