Gozo Channel – the State’s Malta-Gozo ferry service monopoly – is employing an extra 150 employees over and above its own workforce and, in defiance of commercial logic, it is paying more for the employees being sourced from private contractors than for its own.
To keep the company afloat, Finance Minister Clyde Caruana granted Gozo Channel a staggering €10.5 million in subsidies in 2021 – an increase of more than €5 million over 2019’s budgetary allocation.
New information tabled in parliament following questions tabled by opposition MP Chris Said shows that Gozo Channel was employing 150 additional workers in 2021.
Unlike its full-time fixed employees, who numbered 181 in 2021, the new recruits were hired through private contractors being paid millions of euros a year for the contracts.
This is over and above other millions paid to a Greek company to provide Gozo Channel with an extra ship with its own crew, which is setting the company back some €13,000 a day.
Figures presented in parliament show that in 2021, Gozo paid various contractors almost €5 million for staff – equivalent to an average of €38,000 per hired employee.
At the same time, according to its 2021 audited accounts, the cost of its own workforce during the same year (2021) stood at €32,000 per employee.
Although not directly on the government’s payroll, The Shift is reliably informed that the additional employees contracted to work for Gozo Channel are mostly recruited through the Gozo Ministry’s political intervention.
Such mismanagement on the part of Gozo Channel is costing taxpayers dearly.
According to its latest published audited accounts, Gozo Channel in 2021 received €10.5 million in subsidies, compared to the €4.9 million it received in 2019.
The subsidies are being paid through an expired Public Service Obligation (PSO) agreement, which had drawn to an end in 2017 and which so far has not been re-issued.
According to the 2021 accounts, an addendum providing further subsidies was made to the PSO in 2019 by then-transport minister Ian Borg.
It is not known whether that addendum had the European Commission’s approval.
If found to have been irregular, the company would eventually be asked to refund the extra subsidies.
In the meantime, the government has not taken any measures concerning The Shift’s reports that Gozo Channel is leasing new office space – at the site of the Ta’ Miema supermarket in Mgarr – from the clients of chairman Joe Cordina’s private auditing firm.