On 27 January 2016, the National Audit Office (NAO) received a letter alleging collusion and insider information involving Governmental officials. The allegations noted that public property, located at Tal-Vecca, in a Natura 2000 area, devolved to the Dingli Local Council (LC) to establish an Interpretation Centre, was transformed into a catering establishment. The main allegations implied that the Mayor Dingli LC (2005 – 2013) had a personal interest and that there was misuse of EU Funds in this venture. The letter also referred to shortcomings by Governmental institutions involved in this project.
The Investigation did not uncover or receive any evidence to support allegations that there was collusion or misuse of EU funds by public officials, including the Mayor Dingli LC (2005 – 2013) during the key stages of the evolvement of the Dingli Interpretation Centre. This includes the processes relating to land devolution, the sub-leasing of the devolved land to third parties following a call for tenders, as well as the issuance of the planning permits and catering licence. Moreover, this Investigation did not elicit any evidence to corroborate allegations that the Mayor Dingli LC (2005 – 2013) had a personal interest in the venture and / or was in receipt of a monthly amount of €2,000.
The NAO did not obtain any evidence to support allegations that the sub-leasee registered its Company with the Malta Financial Services Authority three days before the issue of the call for tenders by Dingli LC due to insider information. This Investigation established that there was ample information available within the public domain to enable deduction that Dingli LC was to issue a call for tenders.
On a general level, this Investigation revealed a number of administrative weaknesses. These included policy gaps, which prevailed at the former Government Property Division in the processes adopted to devolve public land. These circumstances mainly related to the absence of provisions concerning sites’ use and sub-letting.
This Investigation also noted case specific administrative shortcomings. These included an absence of information by the Dingli Local Council on the commercial element related to the project at the tendering stage, post-facto authorisations, inadequate clauses within the sub-lease Agreement and value for money concerns. The latter particularly related to the annual sub-lease and the devolution fee of Lm20 (€46.60) and Lm100 (€233) which are not reflective of market prices.
This Investigation could not comprehend the variance between the former Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s (MEPA) Development Control Commission (DCC), intention to restrict the provision of food and drink on site to the use of vending machines and the planning permit issued which allowed the site to operate a fully-fledged restaurant as an ancillary facility to the Interpretation Centre. Chair DCC termed these circumstances as an oversight. The NAO contends that such a state of affairs reflects weak work practices, including a broad lack of clarity as well as poor internal communication.
To view report (.PDF) please follow link.