Instead of being fined or blacklisted for breaching tender specifications in the now-defective Ċirkewwa passenger terminal, contractor Charles ‘Ċaqnu’ Polidano was effectively rewarded with another €200,000 direct order to carry out upgrades.
Infrastructure Malta has confirmed with Lovin Malta that the out-of-court settlement it reached with Ċaqnu last November means Polidano Group will carry out €200,000 worth of work to repair the terminal, while being awarded €200,000 in taxpayer money to carry out “additional upgrades”.
The terminal was completed in 2012 under a Nationalist administration, cost €10 million in EU funds. But after just five years it began showing serious signs of deterioration, prompting an analysis to be carried out to see what went wrong.
“This analysis concluded that there were deficiencies in materials provided and workmanship, such as the grade of the concrete and the cover provided to the structures’ internal steel reinforcement. These shortcomings led to the rapid deterioration of the structure,” Infrastructure Malta told Lovin Malta.
“The analysis also highlighted that the original design provided in the original call for tenders could have been specified with a higher durability, considering the environmental conditions of the site. The analysis concluded that there was room for improvement, since the specifications could have been set at higher levels, to ensure increased durability.”
Crucially, Infrastructure Malta concluded this: “However, had the original specifications been met, there would have been no need for the repairs which are taking place in the coming months.”
Infrastructure Malta and Transport Malta also paid €31,855 for testing and technical consultancies.
Asked why the remedial works were contracted to Ċaqnu given he had failed to deliver on the original tender specifications, Infrastructure Malta said: “It is not physically possible to allocate the repairs (to meet original specifications) to one contractor and the optimisation proposed in the 2020 analysis (for an increased lifetime) to another one, since the works are interlinked. The improvements to the columns will be made whilst they are being repaired, and not afterwards. For example, among the improvements, the defective concrete that will be replaced from the existing structures will be at a higher grade than originally specified. Thus, there was no option but to allocate the specified improvements to the same contractor carrying out the remedial works.”
Sources who spoke to Lovin Malta said this out-of-court settlement was an insult to Maltese taxpayers because they are simply forking out more money to a contractor who failed to meet specifications.
“The agreement basically means that he’s doing €200,000 worth of work to make up for his mistakes and being given €200,000 from government,” a source who preferred not to be named told Lovin Malta.
Infrastructure Malta said works will be carried out later this year, by November, and additional tests were currently underway to ascertain the materials and methodology that will be used in the remedial works.
The terminal has not been deemed unsafe for passengers who use it to hop onto the Gozo Channel ferry.
Last November, Infrastructure Malta said it had blacklisted Ċaqnu from getting more road contracts until he paid a massive tax bill of around €40 million, some of which dated back from the 1990s. It later emerged that Ċaqnu’s companies were still bidding for projects.
Last week, the construction magnate was fined €22,000 by a court for breaches of animal welfare laws at his Montekristo Estate.
What do you make of the out-of-court settlement awarded to Ċaqnu?