Busuttil asks Auditor General to look into ITS land transfer

Opposition leader lists several objections, including contract value, terms and procedure following in processing of applications received

As announced on Sunday, opposition leader Simon Busuttil has formally asked the Auditor General to investigate the transfer of land in St Julian’s, currently the site of the Insitutute of Tourism Studies, to DB San Gorg Property.

In a letter to the Auditor General, Charles Deguara, Busuttil highlighted a number of questions raised following the publication of the contract.

He pointed out, for example, that although the land was located in a prime site that was much sought after for commercial development, it was transferred to DB San Gorg Property for a mere €15 million, despite the fact that it had been valued much higher.

The government had also failed to seek Parliament’s approval for the transfer of public land, Busuttil said.

He said the government should have issued a second Request for Proposal if it was not satsified with the tender offered, instead of negotiating directly with the tenderer.

“In fact the government, through Projects Malta, spent more than 12 month in negotiations with the tenderer,” Busuttil said. “In other similar projects, where nearby land was transferred – like Pender Place and Holiday Inn – not only were the tenderers not given the opportunity to negotiate, once their offer was submitted, but the winning tenderers were in fact only granted a few weeks to pay the entire premium value.”

The opposition leader said that the government had agreed to collect a €5 million upfront payment from DBSG, with a further €10 million paid over a period of seven years.

“But in the meantime, the government must come up quickly with €74 million to finance the relocation of the ITS from St Julian’s to Smart City,” he said.

Busuttil also singled out the high cost of participating in the tendering process, which at €10,000 was contrary to the spirit of the subsidiary legislation regulating public acquisitions and could also have been used to limit interest in the proces.

“It is strange that this request for proposal did not include a detailed project description, nor did it list all the conditions tied to the land transfer,” he said.

Busuttil asked the Auditor General to determine of the principles of good governance had been safeguarded in the issue and adjudication of the request for proposals process and in the signed contract itself.

He also called for an investigation into whether all potential and actual tenderers were treated equally, if there were – in fact – negotiations between the government and DBSG after the final offer was submitted, and if the land transfer was in line with the provision laid out in Article  268 of Public Land Trasfer Act.

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