Labour leader stands by Buhagiar’s denial of wrongdoing

PL leader Joseph Muscat says he has “nothing to add” to denials by Labour MP Charles Buhagiar, who is under scrutiny for local council works.

Labour leader Joseph Muscat (right) is standing by his MP Charles Buhagiar.
Labour leader Joseph Muscat (right) is standing by his MP Charles Buhagiar.

Labour leader Joseph Muscat is refusing 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.

"Everything that has to be said was already said by Buhagiar in the statement he issued," Muscat said, who this morning toured the Excelsior Hotel in Floriana.

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.

But Muscat is insisting he has nothing to add to Buhagiar's statement. "It has been completely ignored by the PN," he told MaltaToday.

The PN have accused the Labour leader of playing to the gallery over his silence on the accusations made against Buhagiar, after Muscat himself insisted on the importance of transparency and accountability in politics.

"His silence is proof that Muscat expects accountability from anyone but not from his own people. He is ready to fire at other people, unjustifably, but not of his people," the PN said.

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 "not technical persons".

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.

"I had suggested that Chetcuti Caruana applies for the fund," Buhagiar said. "An application was filed and estimates had been carried out, based on the 2008 tariffs because the contract had been signed during that year."

Buhagiar 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.

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Nicholas Balzan
The PN's TWO strongest arguments against the PL are: Labour's couldn't-be-more-atrocious past! The PN's excellent performance since 1987. Comparing both parties' track record I cannot imagine one single person voting PL. Not even Joseph Muscat himself if he loves Malta.
Miriam Rizzo
PN's strongest and most biting argument against PL is that they are no better. Ask any PN supporter and they all say the same thing - sure our party is rotten to the core - but PL will be the same (they don't say worse, i noticed. As things stand i guess its hard to imagine worse than gonziPN). So Muscat just three away an opportunity to show that PL could be better and that his party are not the next bunch of pirates to take their place on stage.

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