Minister willing to publish Palazzo Vilhena restaurateur’s contract

Owen Bonnici says he believes Heritage Mata does well to generate income for the protection of historical sites

Heritage Minister Owen Bonnici
Heritage Minister Owen Bonnici

Heritage Minister Owen Bonnici has said he is willing to publish the contract between Heritage Malta and the restaurant operator who was granted a temporary concession to offer dining services at Palazzo Vilhena in Mdina.

The contract has not been published by the government but Bonnici said that it has been made available to media organisations that asked for it. MaltaToday has requested a copy.

Bonnici told MaltaToday on Wednesday that Heritage Malta does well to come up with ways to generate income for the protection of historical sites.

Palazzo Vilhena, which is managed by Heritage Malta and houses the Natural History Museum, was being used by a restaurant operator for dining purposes with Bonnici coming under fire for failing to publish the contract, which was not subject to a tender.

Heritage Malta had said that the operator had a contractual agreement with the agency over a restaurant at the MUŻA museum in Valletta and the Mdina exercise was just a trial to determine whether the agency should issue a tender.

“There are historical places under the realm of Heritage Malta that already have a restaurant. I agree with the principle that historical sites offer dining services,” Bonnici said.

The minister said that Heritage Malta decided that for a month, as part of market research, enters into an arrangement with a private contractor with which it already has a concession agreement, to sell food as a "pop up venture".

“This was a trial in order to determine whether such services should be provided in-house service or issue a public call for a dining service,” Bonnici said.

The Nationalist Party demanded an explanation over Heritage Malta’s decision to allow the use of the Mdina palazzo for dining purposes without a call for tenders and insisted that government publishes the contract.

Independent candidate Arnold Cassola has also filed a Freedom of Information request for the publication of the contract.