Investigation launched after former MP gives wife official car

BICC chairman Charles Buhagiar allowed wife to use government BMW for three years while he leased another official car

Buhagiar gave his wife his ‘damaged’ government car and leased a new one for himself
Buhagiar gave his wife his ‘damaged’ government car and leased a new one for himself

Former Labour MP Charles Buhagiar, the prime minister’s advisor on capital projects, is the subject of an inquiry after it emerged that he passed on to his wife an official vehicle assigned to him as executive chairman of the government’s Building Industry Consultative Council.

MaltaToday has confirmed that the office of the permanent secretary within the Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure has launched an internal investigation into the fact that the former Labour minister gave his government car to his wife to use, leading to BICC having to lease a second car for his own use.

In the meantime, Buhagiar authorised the lease of a second vehicle through BICC for his use.

MaltaToday is informed that the office of the permanent secretary launched the audit in the past ten days and that Buhagiar is expected to turn in the two vehicles by Tuesday.

A spokesperson for minister Ian Borg confirmed that three entities, including BICC, were being reviewed by the office of the permanent secretary, in relation to transport related matters.

“Given that such reviews have recently been initiated, at this stage the Ministry would first compile the report and send it for the management’s comments,” the spokesperson said.

Permanent Secretary Christopher Cutajar would not comment on ongoing audits and referred the newspaper to the same spokesperson.

When contacted, Charles Buhagiar confirmed that the office of the permanent secretary had informed BICC about the review and that this was related to transport. He said that besides BICC, one of the two other entities being investigated was Transport Malta.

In a subsequent statement, Transport Malta said that the authority was not being investigated.

“The vehicle developed damage in the gearbox and the local agent had quoted around €7,000 to replace it. I refused to pay so much on repairs and decided to keep the car aside to be used as needed for short trips.” Charles Buhagiar

Buhagiar also confirmed that since late 2013, the BMW 320 had been parked outside his private residence, that his wife had made use of the vehicle and that BICC had leased another vehicle for his use.

“Soon after I was assigned the chauffeured car in 2013, the vehicle developed damage in the gearbox and the local agent had quoted around €7,000 to replace it,” he said. “I refused to pay so much on repairs and decided to keep the car aside to be used as needed for short trips.”

Buhagiar told MaltaToday he did not inform the ministry of the car’s damage or the cost. MaltaToday understands that since the vehicle was leased out for official use, he was not necessarily personally liable for the damages.

Buhagiar said that the vehicle was usually parked outside his personal residence and he confirmed, when pressed, that his wife did make use of the vehicle although he said it was probably to drive him around.

When reminded that he had a chauffeur to drive the newer car leased, Buhagiar said his wife would have probably used the vehicle mostly in the evenings and for short trips.

Buhagiar confirmed that the office of the permanent secretary had notified BICC that they would be visiting their offices on Tuesday to discuss matters related to transport.

“There was no way I was going to pay €7,000 in repairs and that is why I decided to keep the vehicle aside,” he said.

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