Stalls in public market, vault in Fish Market Road and land in Catalan Bay area involved
The new Government have asked the Principal Auditor to investigate the payment of nearly half a million pounds to the family interests of an ex-Minister in Mr Caruana’s Government.
A government statement says that in 2008 the previous administration paid £480,000 to a company called SP (Butchers) Ltd in which the family of existing Opposition Member and former GSD Minister Edwin Reyes had an interest.
A payment of £258,750 was paid for stalls in the public market and a vault at 4 Fish Market Road. This also included a payment of £30,000 for fridges and refrigeration equipment installed in the premises.
The statement adds that in addition to this, the same company was paid £221,250 for the surrender of a licence in respect of an area of land to the north of Catalan Bay. This licence had originally been granted in June 1995 for a period of 18 months for the purposes of building a new cold store facility. The cold store was not built and the licence expired.
"Therefore the payment by the previous Government of £221,250 was in respect of an expired licence for a plot of land in which the cold store had not been built," says the government.
The Deed of Surrender of the licence is worded on the basis that SP (Butchers) Ltd were in occupation of the site and that the payment was made to them for giving up that occupation. It is well known that whenever entities are in occupation of Government land under expired licence, the option is there for the Government to take back the land without any payment being made, says the government.
It goes on to say that in addition to the payment of £480,000 which was made, the sum of £72,036 owed in rent arrears by the stall holder was dropped as well.
"The amounts in question were paid in compensation because the GSD Government wanted to take back the stall in the public market. This option was not given to any other stall holder inside the public market building itself, although it was extended to certain commercial entities on the outside. The stall which was bought back by the Government is now occupied by the stall-holder next door, whose business has expanded into the area formerly occupied by the stall-holder who was bought out.
"The transaction was executed by only one signatory in respect of SP (Butchers).
"The new Government does not see the rationale behind the decision to spend so much public money in this way with no apparent concern for value for money and has asked the Principal Auditor to investigate the matter further," the statement ends.