Economy Minister Chris Cardona has explained why he intervened in the adjudication of a contract for legal services in the gaming industry, saying it was a political decision to change the criteria on which contracts were awarded.

The Sunday Times of Malta reported yesterday that the ministry had instructed the Privatisation Unit which firm to choose in a recent competitive process for legal consultancy in the pre-drafting, adjudication, negotiations and final agreements of an expression of interest for the granting of two new casino licences.

I feel there are circumstances where the financial criteria should not be the make or break factor on their own

In May, an adjudication committee led by the Privatisation Unit ( but including representatives from the Lotteries and Gaming Authority, Mimcol and the ministry) submitted a report for the minister’s approval in which Filletti and Filletti Advocates was shortlisted as the winning bidder.

However, Dr Cardona objected to the way the committee conducted its adjudication on grounds that “qualitative” factors such as the firm’s expertise and capacity should be given more weight and ordered the award of the contract to another firm, Deguara Farrugia Advocates, which was re-ranked as first on the basis of this different criteria.

In a statement yesterday, the ministry defended its actions, despite having failed to reply to the newspaper’s questions before the story went to print.

It said that, while it was legally entitled to issue a direct order for this contract, it had chosen to “stop the practice of the previous Administration” and introduce a competitive process allowing more legal companies to bid for such consultancy work.

The ministry emphasised that the process was not a tender, which would have allowed it no legal room to change the adjudication, but a request for proposals where the adjudication board merely “gives advice” to the ministry.Asked why the ministry had actually suggested which firm should be picked rather than ask for the unit to reassess the bids with less emphasis on the financial aspect, Dr Cardona said that the ministry had made the point several times but the Privatisation Unit was insistent.

Documents seen by The Sunday Times of Malta indicate conflicting views on the matter between the unit’s former head, Emmanuel Ellul

who resigned on May 13 – and the ministry. Mr Ellul even objected in writing, stating that any adjudication process different to the one used by his unit risked adulterating the process with subjectivity.

However, Dr Cardona insisted that, though he respected Mr Ellul, a political decision was taken to change the process because, in the Government’s view, it was producing the wrong results.

“I feel there are circumstances where the financial criteria should not be the make or break factor on their own but that there are other elements such as the expertise and the capacity of a law firm in this case. We took a political decision, which we had a right to do because it was not a tender and I stand by it,” he said, arguing that the case served as a test case of how the criteria should change for future expressions of interest.

“I would understand the doubt if we chastised a firm with ties to the Nationalist Party and rewarded one with ties to Labour but the opposite happened. The firm chosen has absolutely no links to the Government,” he said.

He stressed there were no heated arguments between him and Mr Ellul over the matter and insisted that Mr Ellul had not resigned over this decision

Mr Ellul too denied there was “any heated argument with the minister in a private meeting or that I sent any written objection”.

He reiterated that his resignation was “purely for health reasons”.

The Nationalist Party said that, through his statement, Dr Cardona had confirmed his political interference.

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