HomeInfraAll Infrastructure Malta employees ordered to declare conflicts of interest after The...

All Infrastructure Malta employees ordered to declare conflicts of interest after The Shift’s revelations

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All employees at the government’s roads agency, Infrastructure Malta, have been ordered to declare their “potential, perceived or direct” conflicts of interest and to register any gifts received in connection to their work by the end of this month, in the wake of reports by The Shift.

In a new hard-hitting policy introduced by CEO Ivan Falzon, all temporary and permanent employees must also declare any part-time work they are doing, even if self-employed, and it will be up to an internal board to decide whether they can continue.

Should Infrastructure Malta determine that an employee’s part-time role conflicts with their employment at the agency, the employee will be asked to choose one or the other.

The new ‘Conflict of Interest Policy and Procedure’ follows a series of scandals revealed by The Shift on how last year over €2 million worth of direct orders were given to companies that belong to the brother of one of the agency’s key managers Noel Vella.

The Shift is informed that the issue does not only concern Vella and that there are many other cases involving contractors and their ‘part-time employees or advisors’ who also happen to be full-time employees of the roads agency.

Claims of rampant corruption, backhanders, lack of accountability, and project cost variations to justify increased expenditure on multimillion-euro road projects have been the order of the day since Infrastructure Malta’s inception.

While the agency – particularly when it was under the direction of former transport minister Ian Borg, who was transferred to foreign affairs after the last election – distinguished itself for its massive direct orders, claims of abuse and corruption continue although the projects in question now appear to be smaller in nature.

Most of the roads recently built have ended up costing taxpayers millions more than what had been budgeted while other projects, like the underpass in Mriehel, were added into the mix after tenders were issued.

According to the new policy distributed to all Infrastructure Malta employees, the CEO has made it clear that all those found to have not fully declared their conflicts of interest or provided false information will be subject to disciplinary action.

“It will be the responsibility of the employee to register any conflict of interest or a situation which may lead to a potential conflict of interest,” the new policy stipulates. As such, it obliges employees to revise their status at least once a year or whenever a potential conflict of interest might arise.

“Failure to declare a direct conflict of interest may lead to disciplinary action,” according to the new rules.

All gifts over a value of €100 must be either refused or filed in a gifts register.

“This is being established so that no conflicts of interest are created through the receipt of gifts of a substantial value,” the policy states.

Sources at the agency lauded the initiative, calling it “an important step in the right direction”.

But, they added, “Obviously, its success or not now depends on its implementation and the proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

Last year, The Shift uncovered how two companies owned by the brother of the agency’s Head of Implementation Noel Vella were given some €2 million in direct orders on Vella’s watch for various road projects. The companies – Darna Properties Ltd and JV Infrastructure Ltd – were set up specifically for those works.

IM had defended Vella, stating that the companies were two of around 70 that were given direct orders through its framework contract. However, it did not state whether those companies were only added to the framework system after Vella joined the agency’s management.

Vella, who, before his engagement at Infrastructure Malta, spent most of his working for the Polidano Group, was posted at Infrastructure Malta on the direct instruction of former transport minister Ian Borg.

                           

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