Tista' taqra bil- Malti.
Mimcol chair and former Projects Malta chair Adrian Said and former executive chair of Projects Malta William Wait testified during the public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, on Wednesday.
Caruana Galizia who was assassinated in a car bomb on 16 October 2017, would have turned 56 on Wednesday.
In the previous sitting former police commissioner, Lawrence Cutajar testified.
During Wednesday’s sitting, Wait, an accountant by profession, told the board that Maniera Architects were given €700,000 to prepare a project for ITS which was not carried out. The board pointed out that this was equivalent to almost the entire budget for the year, with the witness clarifying that the funds had been allocated separately.
- Adrian Said told the board that the Vitals Global Healthcare project came out of the blue, insisting that it bypassed Projects Malta;
- The hospitals’ privatisation deal was subcontracted through direct orders;
- Said told the board that he got to know about the memorandum of understanding between the government and VGH through the media recently;
- Said said that in his opinion, projects were carried out hurriedly referring to the hospitals’ privatisation deal;
- William Wait, the Executive Chairman of Projects between between November 2015 and July 2017, confirmed that a €700,000 direct order was given to an architect to prepare a project for ITS which was not carried out;
- Wait and Said told the board that no one from Projects Malta was involved in the Electrogas deal as this pre-dated the entity.
On Friday at 9.30am, Alfred Camilleri from the finance ministry will testify.
On Wednesday 2 September, Ing. James Camenzuli and Minister Michael Farrugia.
On Friday 4 September, Lawrence Cutajar will continue his testimony. In case Cutajar cannot make it on the day, former Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech would be called to testify.
"Mr Wait, who was extremely polite and civilised unlike so many of the uncouth savages I need to call in the course of my work, many of whom think that public officials have two options called ‘be rude and extremely hostile to journalists’ and ‘don’t bother answering their calls or questions’, was extremely clear in his answers to my very specific questions." [https://daphnecaruanagalizia.com/2017/02/lie-us-please-just-love/]
Wait says that he had hopefully done the same today.
Wait says that Mizzi was employed at Malta Enterprise.
The witness says that Projects Malta had nothing to do or any contact with Montenegro and China.
Wait says that he had no interactions with former Minister Konrad Mizzi. He would deal a lot with Ronald Mizzi at the time.
Wait says "limited" is a subjective word.
The Government Property Department was only involved at the end to sign the contracts.
Judge Lofaro remarks that they're passing the buck but no one is replying.
Wait is criticized for the due diligence process at projects Malta. This comes after he says that a number of decisions were ultimately taken by the cabinet
Wait says that he was in charge of administering the concession. Wait says that they did not go to the contracts department because it was a concession.
Judge Mallia intervenes in disbelief, "you've got a site worth millions of euros, and you keep it on yourself and not involve the Contracts Committee? Is not a duty to make the committee aware of what is happening?"
Wait says that TUM finance and TUM invest are something recent and that he got involved after he resigned.
Wait says that he was given four direct orders including one concerning the Chalet project. He clarifies that he was not working on them before leaving the entity.
He says that he had too much on his plate and that is why he had resigned. He adds that he does not like controversies and that one is criticized for doing something.
Wait explains that Maniera Architects were paid €700,000 to prepare a project for ITS which was not carried out.
"The payment was made," he says.
Wait says that Mifsud Bonnici carried out services over and above his role.
Aron Mifsud Bonnici held several roles at the same time, he confirms.
The witness says he was, but asks to be shown the dates in order to be sure.
He adds that there were more board meetings if one takes into account when he executive vice chair.
The witness says that as far as he was aware, the board never held meetings at the energy ministry and Konrad Mizzi was never present. Sometimes permanent secretary to the Energy Ministry would be present, he says.
The meetings would be held in the board room at the Finance Ministry.
Chief Justice Emeritus remarks that he could not understand how the Finance Minister said that he was kept in the dark.
Wait says that Projects Malta was situated in a small flat and could not hold board meetings there.
Wait says that the process was similar to that of the hospitals' privatisation deal. Projects Malta facilitated the process.
Wait says that Projects Malta was also looking at property, mentioning Chalet.
"It's a pity that Chalet is abandoned. It is a sin," he says.
He mentions other projects, an international school and ITS.
The witness says it could be, because there were many direct orders.
The direct orders would be decided by a committee consisting of himself, the chief financial officer and Joe Cuschieri, the deputy chair.
These would be then passed on to the permanent secretary, he explains adding that Konrad Mizzi was not involved in the awarding of direct orders.
Wait names the people on the evaluation board and the negotiation board.
The evaluation board includes James Camenzuli, Manuel Castagna and Aron Mifsud Bonnici as secretary.
Aron Mifsud Bonnici was also the secretary on the negotiations board.
The witness says that whenever information was requested, we always gave it in full. it would be routed through Alfred Camilleri.
Wait says that Projects Malta had no contact with Keith Schembri, little contact with Joseph Muscat while they would receive direction from the permanent secretary, Ronald Mizzi.
"I am very careful," he says.
William Wait, an accountant by profession, sits on the boards or acts as the secretary of a number of private enterprises, which are also clients of the government’s investment arm.
The witness says that there are a number of companies and he could not possibly remember all of them.
He lists some companies in which he is involved.
Judge Lofaro mentions a "Chinese" company. He says that it belongs to him and is involved in Hong Kong. She also mentions TUM Finance and asks whether it is related to Yorgen Fenech.
He says no, eventually saying that it is owned by Anthony Fenech (a relative of Yorgen Fenech).
When Projects Malta was set up, in April 2014, he was appointed as director. In May 2015, he was appointed as Deputy Executive Chairman at Projects Malta and later succeeded Said.
Said says that he was never summoned by the National Audit Office. He adds that it was from the report that he got to know about the MoU.
Said says that he went back and verified the minutes. He explains that given the space, various ideas were floated around about the potential use for St Luke's Hospital. At the time the government was looking for a rehabilitation hospital.
When verifying the minutes, Said found that in January 2015, they had discussed the possibility of having an administration city – that is the relocation of other government agencies to St Luke's Hospital.
Said was not invited to the meeting. The witness adds that he had asked who was invited, and was told that the consultants and other people from Projects Malta were there. By that time, he had already resigned and entered a non-executive role at Projects Malta, which could have been the reason why he was not invited.
John Valenzia, Eman Schembri and William Waitt from Projects Malta were present.
The witness replies that this is possible only if the investors have the financial strength.
"Yes, I got to know about it recently from media reports," he replies.
In May 2015, an RfP was published and the a short time frame was given for the size of proposal. He had felt it was not sufficient, Dr Azzopardi suggests.
The witness agrees.
"Yes, it is one of the biggest," Said says.
Projects Malta was set up in 2014. Said was executive chairman.
He felt that the project was carried out hurriedly.
Elaborating further, Said comments that he was not involved in the project, and in the drafting of the RfP.
Said says no.
Judge Lofaro comments on his earlier statements and the reason for his resignation.
Dr Comodini Cachia asks the witness whether the reason behind his resignation was because at Projects Malta the ministry would impose on the company while at Mimcol there was no such interference.
The witness replies in the affirmative, he adds that in his opinion the RfP for hospitals' privatization deal should have been longer.
"At the time, I felt that I should not stay on at Projects Malta," he says, adding that there were strong personal reasons not to remain there.
"MIMCOL is the technical advisor to Malta Government Investments (MGI) subsidiaries as well as consultancy arm to the Cabinet of Ministers and other agencies," she reads out MIMCOL's description.
Said says that he has never given a presentation to the Cabinet as Mimcol.
After his time with Projects Malta, he says that he was aware that the evaluation board did give a presentation to the government.
Said says that he did not resign because of irregularities he was witnessing.
The witness replies he wanted to start something new.
Said says that the hospitals' privatisation deal came out of the blue (bhal sajjetta) and had bypassed his company and was directly subcontracted by direct orders
He says that the consultation was given by direct orders – and that the finance ministry would approve such orders.
Said says that he was never requested for any information by the Finance Ministry. He however did inform the ministry about certain projects.
Said says that the permanent secretary of the Finance Ministry sat on Projects Malta board.
Projects Malta was not involved in the drafting of the RfP, he says, adding that Projects Malta was tasked to coordinate it and which is why the deal came as a surprise.
The main coordinator was Aron Mifsud Bonnici had approached Ganado to draft the RfP.
Mifsud Bonnici was a company secretary to Projects Malta.
"I think his role was more directly linked to the ministry than to Projects Malta," the witness says, adding that he had asked the same at the time.
He says that until September he was involved in Trade Malta.
"Then in March a request for proposal for the privatisation of hospital was published, with the process started before Projects Malta," he says.
The witness confirms that the privatisation deal was an idea of the government and that the it was handed over to them.
He resigned on 2 May, and stayed on until end of June.
"I have nothing to do with Electrogas and was never involved in any capacity," he says.
"First of all Trade Malta, secondly yachting promotion, another project was embellishment of roads but a public-private-partnership, embellishment of public beaches, that's all I can remember," he says.
Said replies saying that it was not the case, but to have more effective coordination.
Asked whether Mizzi was directly involved, Said says that Projects Malta was in communication with the permanent secretary, Ronald Mizzi.
Mentioning St Luke's Hospital, Said said that until January 2015 the idea was to have an "administrative city".
He explains that Trade Malta is a joint venture between the government and the Chamber of Commerce, unlike Projects Malta.
Asked about the reason, Said it was a personal reason. He felt his role was "too much on the periphery".
He is a non-executive chairman at Mimcol.
The public inquiry into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is tasked with determining whether the state did all it could to prevent the assassination.
The board of inquiry is chaired by Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia, and composed of Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino and Madame Justice Abigail Lofaro.
Lawyers Therese Comodini Cachia, Jason Azzopardi, and Peter Caruana Galizia, assisted the family.