Labour MP Charles Buhagiar (left) alongside Labour leader Joseph Muscat.
The Nationalist Party challenged Labour leader Joseph Muscat "to come clean on Charles Buhagiar's €150,000 'mistake'."
This morning, Muscat refused to be dragged into saying anything further than what has already been stated by Labour MP Charles Buhagiar over "illegal" Mosta roadworks he was contracted out to do during the council's adminstration by former Labour mayor Paul Chetcuti Caruana.
The PN explained that Labour MP Charles Buhagiar was entrusted by the Mosta Local Council with major road works in the locality and "made an unpardonable mistake of €150,000 in his projections."
Ever since a board of inquiry issued its report into the council's roadworks, the Nationalist Party has been asking whether Muscat will be taking any disciplinary steps against the MP, who served as the Mosta council's architect.
The inquiry into the Mosta roadworks had found that the work carried out was not in line with acceptable legal and administrative procedures. Buhagair, the project's architect, has denied any wrongdoing on his part and accused the board of not understanding the project because they were not "technical persons."
In a statement issued today, the PN said "When Muscat speaks about accountability, take it with a pinch of salt. He does not mean it; or rather, he excepts everyone to be accountable except his people."
The statement added that "in a typical Labour fashion, [Buhagiar] tried to shift blame on others" and described his behaviour as "absolutely shameful." The PN added "Muscat's priority is defending Charles Buhagair - even if €150,000 from the public's purse have been squandered."
"Why is Muscat so dead set on defending his shadow minister? What is Muscat afraid of? What, exactly, is Labour trying to hide?" the PN asked.
The Nationalist Party challenged Muscat to come clean on this matter and said he owes the public an explanation.
"He needs to say - loud and clear - what action, if any at all, will he take with respect to Charles Buhagiar and his €150,000 mistake."
In 2010, the then Labour council wanted to carry out works in Triq id-Dawr, and turn the street's square into a parking area. Buhagiar has said the Mosta council stood to benefit €390,000 from MEPA's commuted parking payment scheme.
Buhagiar said "I had suggested that Chetcuti Caruana applies for the fund...an application was filed and estimates had been carried out, based on the 2008 tariffs because the contract had been signed during that year."
The MP said Mepa had not issued a permit when roadworks started. "When the new mayor [Shirley Farrugia] ordered a price revision, the roadworks and the works on the square were included as one, with tariffs set at what they are today," he said. "It is a blatant lie that there were not enough funds."
The inquiry found that the council didn't have the necessary funds in its budget and couldn't avail itself of any other funds. The estimate for the roadworks had varied between €187,000 and €330,000.
Buhagiar claims the board of inquiry is made up of "non-technical persons who didn't understand how the project worked."
The board of inquiry also listed several shortcomings in the way the tender for works was awarded.
Asked by MaltaToday last week whether he had ever been awarded direct orders by local councils or whether he had received request for quote for his works, Buhagiar reiterated that local councils had strict regulations to adhere to when it came to the award of tenders.
Buhagiar complained about the fact that he was losing tenders to new and upcoming architects. "They are starting out, they have a small office, sometimes no secretary, and they can afford to provide lower fees. On the other hand, my office employs 11 architects, we have high overhead costs and cannot lower the tariffs as much as local councils would want to," he said.
Buhagiar is currently the architect of three local councils, having lost that of Rabat and Marsaskala. Following a change of local government, he is no longer the architect for the Mosta locality.