Have you noticed? The government had no reaction to the national auditor’s report into the transfer of the ITS site in St George’s Bay to the dB group. That’s even though as the dB group pointed out in its facetious comment, the NAO criticised the government not the dB group.
First a word to the dB group. The Auditor General’s job is not to investigate private businesses. His job is to audit and report on the accounts of public entities and to deliver reports that are required of him by Parliament’s accounts committee.
The job of determining whether dB group committed any wrongdoing belongs to the police and as far as can be ascertained and as is their wont they haven’t bothered to look.
The dB group’s statement that the NAO report somehow exonerates them is akin to Konrad Mizzi saying the Egrant report into whether the prime minister owned a Panama company somehow cleared Konrad Mizzi of all the evidence that besmirches him.
The NAO report does say one thing the dB group should be worried about and likely is. It says that the exclusion of both the Government Property Division and the Department of Contracts from the procurement process that led to the transfer of land to the dB group likely makes the transfer invalid.
Now that’s going a pickle, isn’t it? The dB group has been reselling futures for quite some time now. People purchased apartments that so far are mere twinkles in Silvio Debono’s eyes. Things started looking uncomfortable when a court struck down the development permit that authorised those apartments to be built because the permitting authority included a real estate agent that stood to profit from those sales. But that could be presented as a delay which can be overcome by a fresh application.
But if the actual ownership of the site is put in question, those buyers of future apartments some 120 metres above the ground might start feeling like the return émigré who bought the Fontana di Trevi off Totò.
The government’s silence in all this is haunting. People are in risk of being out of pocket and that is not just the dB group. There’s a chain reaction effecting contractors and buyers and lenders and insurers that are dancing on thin and cracking ice. And that’s because of government decisions which no one now seems to be around to take responsibility for.
Look back at the NAO report. The auditor could not identify who took the decision to commercialise the site, to kick out the catering school, not to draw up a parliamentary resolution, to label the initiative as a “concession” when it wasn’t, to rule out the regular procurement process for concessions, to gloss over the residential component of the project in all its promotion, to shut out most of the appointed negotiators from the negotiation.
All these manoeuvres let to Silvio Debono getting the deal he wanted. On top of that you had the comedy of errors at the Planning Authority with the permit granted by an agent that would profit personally from the deal and a director flown in by private jet to vote her approval.
Is no one going to assume responsibility for this? Totò and his wingman have escaped the scene. And what a disaster they’ve left behind.
That doesn’t mean the dB group should get away with the Fontana di Trevi, whatever they’ve paid for it in which ever colour envelope they folded the cash. Repubblika called for the site to be returned to the public. The Malta Developers’ Association joined that call today. Good on them. Even for them too much is too much.
Post scriptum: If you’re working from home you can get away with watching a beloved classic movie scene of seminal comedy. Here’s a swindle to remember. The victim is big cheese.