Labour calls for PAC inquiry into Fekruna expropriation, Spinola property sale

Labour says two audit reports expose lack of good governance and transparency by the last PN administration 

The Labour Party has requested Parliament’s public accounts committee (PAC) to investigate two audit reports into land deals by the last Nationalist administration.

One of the National Audit Office reports concerns the controversial expropriation of a plot of land at Fekruna Bay in Xemxija, and the second relates to the government’s sale of a seafront property in Spinola. In both cases, the NAO warned that the PN government had failed to secure value for money for the deals.

Now Labour’s representatives on the PAC – MPs Robert Abela, Clayton Bartolo, Silvio Schembri and Julia Farrugia Portelli – have formally requested that the committee scrutinise these two reports, which they say expose the lack of good governance and transparency by the PN government and MP Jason Azzopardi, who back then was the minister responsible for lands.

“The two cases expose a lack of serious leadership by the last PN-lead government, despite all the party’s talk on high standards,” they wrote.

The MPs recounted how Azzopardi had also been criticised by the NAO in reports concerning the PN government’s sale of the former Lowenbrau factory, the acquisition of HSBC’s former Valletta offices, and the encroachment permits handed out on the cheap in the run-up to the 2013 election.

The Fekruna controversy concerns the PN government’s deal with restaurateur Raymond Vella struck four days before the 2013 election, through which the businessmen received two plots of land in San and Gwann and Swieqi in return for his land at the Xemxija Bay.

However, the Internal Audit and Investigations Department found that the government had lost around €1.1 million in the deal – as it had overvalued the Fekruna land and undervalued the two lands traded. The NAO report, that was published in Parliament this week, also revealed that the government didn’t even keep a record of the Lands Department’s meetings with Vella.

The Spinola case goes back to 2012, when the government had sold a seafront property to Eighty Two Co Ltd for €525,000. However, the NAO’s report warned that the government had failed to secure value for money as the land was actually worth some €2.4 million.

Azzopardi: ‘There is nothing sweeter than the truth’

Jason Azzopardi reacted by reiterating that the audit reports had proven that the PL had lied when it had claimed there was political interference in the transfer of the two plots of land.

“There was no political interference or contact between politicians and the landowners in question,” he said. “Indeed, the reports say that the Fekruna Bay expropriation was carried out in the public interest and praise the setting of a committee to evaluate the price of the lands.

“There is nothing sweeter than the truth, and I look forward to the reports being analyzed.”