Ethics complaint over minister’s €2m restoration fund ‘for constituents’

Independent candidate Arnold Cassola wants investigation into €2 million restoration scheme largely confined to constituents of the environment minister’s electoral district

Environment minister Aaron Farrugia
Environment minister Aaron Farrugia

A €2 million restoration scheme for the facades of residences in traffic-heavy urban conservation areas, is largely confined to constituents of the environment minister’s electoral district.

Independent candidate Arnold Cassola has complained that the proposal by Aaron Farrugia for the €2 million Irrestawra l-Faċċata scheme, launched together with the Planning Authority, was “disproportionately” located in Farruia’s two electoral districts, by his count one-third of the total 12km in roads covered by the scheme.

Cassola has now requested an investigation by the parliamentary commissioner for standards in public life, George Hyzler. “There are 57 UCAs across Malta, yet it is citizens from just eight of these UCAs who will qualify for this scheme… I am requesting an investigation as to whether this is justified to have so many citizens not eligible for this tax-funded initiative, whilst the minister’s constituents appear privileged above others.”

This scheme is open to owners of private residences or registered voluntary organisations who have a property within the urban conservation area of the following 5km of streets, namely Triq D’Argens in Msida, Triq il-Kbira San Gużepp in Ħamrun/Sta Venera, Triq il-Wied in Birkirkara, Triq Stiefnu Zerafa, Triq is-Salib tal-Marsa, Triq Patri Feliċjan Bilocca and Triq Balbi in Marsa, Triq Bormla, Triq Ħal Tarxien and Triq Ħal Luqa in Paola, Triq Ħal Tarxien and Triq Paola in Tarxien and Triq il-Kbira in Rabat (Malta).

Farrugia won election in 2017 on the first electoral district: Valletta, Floriana, Ħamrun, Marsa, Tal-Pietà, Gwardamanġa (Tal-Pietà), and Santa Venera.

The PA scheme funds restoration works on facades in areas that experience increased deterioration due to high volumes of traffic.

The PA will finance up to €10,000 per property of the expenses for the works related to maintenance, restoration or replacement of traditional façade elements including masonry, timber elements and wrought iron works. In addition, the grant will also include a maximum of €800 and €200 for professional fees and council permit fees respectively. 

“We have heard the voice of the people, we have understood the challenges particularly in these areas, and we will bear the financial cost for families who want to renovate their houses which have architectural and important value for the localities. This time, applicants will not be paying out of pocket because we will focus on main and busy roads, where there is a high incidence of pensioners,” Farrugia said at the launch of the scheme.. 

The schemes one of several issued by the government over the years for urban areas, such as Irrestawra Darek and Green Your Building. The Irrestawra Darek scheme, launched under three editions since 2017, made available €25 million and assisted 355 first-time buyers, 151 Grade 1 or 2 scheduled buildings, 42 voluntary organisations and 2,058 private owners of residences within village core areas.