The Malta Independent 29 September 2021, Wednesday

Jason Azzopardi was aware of controversial property transfer in St Julian's, PAC hears

Tuesday, 31 October 2017, 18:09 Last update: about 5 years ago

Former Director General for Lands Iman Schembri has told the Public Accounts Committee that former Minister for Lands Jason Azzopardi was always aware of what was going on with a property the government transferred in Spinola, St Julian's.

The Public Accounts Committee continued to hear the case where the National Audit Office had flagged serious shortcomings in the 2012 sale of a St Julian's property worth €2.4 million for just €525,000, citing an "element of ministerial involvement".

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During the session this evening, the government has called Iman Schembri to testify before the Committee.

Asked if there was any pressure due to the fact that the election was round the corner, a year away, Schembri said that at that time, everyone thought the election was coming in a few weeks. He said that he was unfortunate enough to work through that period. "The work involved a lot of stress. There were hundreds of pending cases and we were understaffed due to budget constraints."

Asked about the mere €35 profit which the government made through the sale of this property, the former Director said that it is clear that this was a mistake.

Government MP Julia Farrugia Portelli asked if any pressure was exerted from the Ministry to conclude this process. Schembri said that they did make pressure for this sale to be concluded.

The Lands Commissioner had issued a call for tenders for the site in question, with the architect of government valuing it at €950,000. But when the NAO began investigating the sale, the NAO had valued the property at €2.4 million.

Government and the company, Eighty-Two Company Limited had held informal arbitration proceedings, rather than through the Malta arbitration centre as was stipulated in the tender.

Asked why informal arbitration was held, instead of the aforementioned, he said that the reason given was for control purposes, in terms of timeframes. The amount offered by the developer rose and the amount asked by government reduced. They agreed on €525,000.

Beppe Fenech Adami said that it is not correct to claim that the government paid €35, as it paid much more than that.

Gaetano Schembri was the draftsman responsible for the property in question said that he prepared the plans but never set foot on the site. "The client used to submit his plans and we would work accordingly," he said.

When asked if this case was treated any differently from any other, Schembri said that it wasn't. 

 


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