Charles Buhagiar resists resignation option mooted at BICC board

At least three board members have told Buhagiar he should resign after it was revealed that he had passed his official vehicle on to his wife for her personal use

BICC chairman Charles Buhagiar
BICC chairman Charles Buhagiar

The executive chairman of the Building Industry Consultative Council is refusing to bow to pressure to resign after MaltaToday last Sunday revealed that he had passed his official vehicle to his wife for her personal use and leased another car for himself at the council’s expense.

Charles Buhagiar, appointed to the post of executive chairman after the 2013 election,  admitted last week that BICC had leased a second vehicle after he decided to put a BMW320 aside instead of repairing some damage to it and that his wife had made use of the vehicle on numerous occasions.

Sources within the BICC said that at least three sitting members of the BICC’s executive board told Buhagiar that he should resign, or at least suspend himself from the post until an audit review is concluded and the findings published. Buhagair has however refused to budge.

The office of the permanent secretary within the Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure had also confirmed that a review of accounting practices at BICC had been ordered. That review was in fact launched on Tuesday and, already, many red flags have been raised.

The auditors have since confirmed that, for close to five years, Buhagiar’s wife had been making use of the BMW320 assigned to BICC for the chairman’s use and that Buhagiar had leased another vehicle at BICC’s expense and without seeking prior approval from the ministry. Buhagiar is also assigned a full-time driver.

But MaltaToday is now informed that the auditors have uncovered other, possibly more damning, practices and are currently working to establish responsibilities and the extent of the damage.

In fact, the sources said that for a number of years, Charles Buhagiar and BICC executive Frans Chircop allegedly authorised the payment of money to employees for the purchase of fuel without any receipts being presented.

Such money, they said, was also allegedly paid for fuel purchased for the BMW320 used by Buhagiar’s wife.

It is as yet unclear how much had been paid out for fuel without any receipt being supplied, but the auditors appear to have immediately flagged this matter as of major concern.

Also troubling is the disappearance of the official logbooks of a number of vehicles assigned to or leased by BICC, as well as books kept in the vehicles for users to log journey details, fuel purchases and other data.

Major abuse seems to have been uncovered in the use of a Citroen vehicle, assigned to the council’s messenger driver for officious use during office hours.

Sources within the ministry itself suggested that Minister Ian Borg may have asked for the suspension or resignation of Buhagiar and Chircop, but no official confirmation of this was forthcoming.

They also revealed that the auditors would be recommending that – at the very least, and not excluding further action – a number of BICC officials and employees be called to appear in front of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee to answer to questioning by MPs.

The same sources did confirm, however, that the ministry had not received any notice from Buhagiar as to his possible intent to step aside temporarily or resign.

When contacted, Minister Ian Borg would not answer questions at this point, but confirmed that the review by the Office of the Permanent Secretary was currently underway.

“As soon as these are ready, a report will be compiled to be sent to the management for comments,” he said in an email. “Only following this will we be able to give you further answers to your questions.”

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