The Malta Independent 18 June 2024, Tuesday
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Infrastructure Malta awarded over €17m in direct orders in second half of 2021

Kevin Schembri Orland Sunday, 22 May 2022, 09:30 Last update: about 3 years ago

Infrastructure Malta awarded over €17 million through direct orders during the second half of 2021, information published in the Government Gazette reveals.

The €17,266,156 was awarded through a total of 131 direct orders, with some costing far more than others. The direct orders ranged from works on roads, to consultancies on projects, studies that needed to be conducted, emergency works and even landscaping works.  

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This newsroom notes that as listed in the Government Gazette, €3,289,362 in tenders was issued by the agency in the second half of 2021.

A direct order is a process which effectively does away with the conventional tender procurement procedure: unlike in the case of a tender, a direct order can be given to a company or person without a public call. There are instances when direct orders are required, one example being when urgent emergency works are needed.

There were some consortia, companies and joint ventures that received a large amount through direct orders during this period.

The Environmental Landscapes Consortium received the most direct orders – 11 – being awarded a total of €1,744,346. The majority was for landscaping works, with some works on stormwater systems, ancillary works at the tunnels and some repair work

Link-2018 JV and Bifra JV had the second most direct orders awarded during this period, with five each.

Link-2018 JV, which had won the tender for the Central Link project, received €1,788,787 through five direct orders in the second half of 2021, which are for works such as the maintenance and resurfacing of Saqqajja Hill and work connected to the Central Link Project

Bifra JV, which had won the contract for tunnel improvement works at the tunnels in the Trqi Regijonali, Santa Venera and Triq Mikiel Anton Vassalli, San Giljan, saw a variation to this contract of €767,015.61. In addition, this joint venture was also awarded €2,466,400 through five direct orders in the second half of last year, all for ancillary works at a number of tunnels, including Kirkop, Msida and Santa Venera. There was also another variation of €315,295 on another of its contracts, which was for tunnel improvement works at the vehicular tunnel in Triq l-Ewwel Titjira, Kirkop.

Two particular direct orders that were awarded by Infrastructure Malta were for over €1 million each.

1,095,994.93 was awarded to the Environmental Landscapes Consortium for Landscaping works at the Marsa Junction.

A €1,097,447 direct order was awarded to Polidano Brothers Ltd. for emergency storm damage repairs to a quay structure, “using specialised equipment next to another recently-built section of the same quay by the same contractor.” It lists that the repairs are “urgently required to ensure quay users’ safety, on behalf of TM.”

The Malta Independent on Sunday sent a number of questions to Infrastructure Malta, asking whether it was necessary for €17.2 million worth of direct orders to be issued during this period, rather than using the tendering process. This newsroom also highlighted the €1,095,994.93 direct order awarded to the Environmental Landscapes Consortium for landscaping works at the Marsa junction, asking why this was awarded through a direct order and not through a tender. Another issue this newsroom highlighted was the €767,015 variation published in the Government Gazette regarding the contract for tunnel improvement works at the tunnels in Triq Regjonali, Santa Venera and Triq Mikiel Anton Vassalli, San Giljan, asking how much the project is now expected to cost and why it is going over budget.

Responding, an Infrastructure Malta spokesperson said that its list of responsibilities requires the contracting of hundreds of local and international service providers and suppliers to implement different projects, ranging from emergency repairs of roads and coastal structures to the rebuilding of residential roads and multi-million upgrades such as the Grand Harbour Clean Air Project, the Kirkop Tunnels and Airport Intersection Project.

“All Infrastructure Malta contractors are engaged through established procurement processes applicable for different situations and conditions. As indicated by the figure quoted in your questions, more than 86% of Infrastructure Malta’s €125 million plus capital expenditure for the second half of 2021 was disbursed through public calls for tenders or similar processes.”

As specified in the applicable procurement regulations, an Infrastructure Malta spokesperson said, in certain situations “it is not possible to issue calls for tenders to acquire certain services. For example, among the contracts awarded by direct order, some are required for Infrastructure Malta to launch urgently required upgrades to quays and other coastal systems, to avoid causing extended safety risks to mariners, pedestrians and bathers. Moreover, such repairs can only take place during certain months of the year, depending on weather conditions and the seasonal use of these coastal structures. Similar situations necessitating emergency road reconstruction works are encountered when road conditions become dangerous to road users due to storm damages or other unforeseen circumstances.”

In situations where direct orders are required, the spokesperson said that Infrastructure Malta ascertains affordability and value for money through several checks and balances, including, where possible, requesting quotations from different service providers or suppliers capable of providing the specified products or services. “Such quotations are obtained within the limited timeframes available in each situation and contracts are awarded to the most affordable, technically compliant offer received.”

“In other cases, direct orders and variations to contracts would be required for additional services to contractors of major projects to provide services which could not have been possibly foreseen during the planning stages. Such works may include additional reinforcement of weak road foundations, upgrades of existing pipelines and other underground networks requested by the utilities during implementation and requests for project modifications from local councils and other entities. Such variations are permissible and stipulated as part of the normal, long-established conditions of all works contracts. These conditions allow for variations of up to 50% of the original contract values to make sure that if any such unforeseen requirements are identified, works can continue without unnecessary delays.”

It said that during the implementation of the Tunnels Rehabilitation Project, Infrastructure Malta was requested to lay new water pipelines and electricity cables beneath one of the tunnels’ carriageways after the calls for tenders for this project were issued. “These trenching requirements were not known when the contract was awarded, necessitating part of the indicated additional contracts and variations. At the same time, Infrastructure Malta upgraded the asphalt used for the resurfacing of the four tunnels to the new, longer-lasting polymer-modified material that the agency started using in arterial Maltese roads in 2020. Infrastructure Malta had not yet introduced this type of asphalt in Malta when the tunnels’ project call for tenders was issued in 2019.”

The spokesperson said that other additional works were required to consolidate parts of the tunnel structures that were only exposed for inspection and testing after the initial tunnel walls cleaning included in the original contract. “In fact, the original contract indicated that the selected contractor was required to conduct such cleaning and testing for the identification of any additional repairs that could not be predicted before the contract works were underway. The four tunnels had not seen any maintenance or repairs for several decades and the works required to bring them up to standard were more extensive than the preliminary studies had indicated.”

The original contracts for the rehabilitation of the four tunnels included in this project added up to €14.6 million. The final estimated cost including all additional works required during implementation is €19.6 million, the spokesperson said. “The final actual cost is likely to be lower than this estimate since measurement and certification of works actually carried out are still in progress.”

The spokesperson also said that direct orders are adopted in situations where proprietary products or services are required, or when services are provided by other Government entities or companies that are already contracted by the Government for similar services at the same location. “For example, Infrastructure Malta contracts the Environmental Landscapes Consortium Ltd (ELC) for certain tree planting and landscaping works required for arterial road upgrades such as the Marsa Junction Project and the Central Link Project. This company has been entrusted with the upkeep of landscaped areas (such as roundabouts and central strips) of the arterial road network through separate public-private partnership contracts with the Government of Malta since 2002. By contracting the planting of additional trees and other related works for Infrastructure Malta’s new landscaped areas in arterial roads to this company, the agency is avoiding the complications and additional costs of having more than one contractor looking after the landscaping of the same sites. ELC will then continue to take care of the new trees and shrubs in these arterial roads as part of its pre-existing contractual obligations.”

“Infrastructure Malta is committed to continue taking all necessary measures to ascertain cost-effectiveness and to maximise the returns on the Government’s unprecedented infrastructural investment. In certain situations, direct orders as permissible by applicable regulations are the best option to implement upgrades and repairs required to ensure that Malta’s public infrastructure continues to meet the requirements of its users safely and effectively.”

 

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