Two foreign-owned firms are expected to share the profits from some €70 million worth of public road-rebuilding contracts, outpricing major Maltese competitors who are now fuming, Times of Malta is informed.

In contrast, industry sources pointed out, taxpayers should be relieved knowing they would save millions of euros because a Turkish and a Sicilian company were likely be doing the job considerably cheaper than Maltese contractors would have done.

Infrastructure Malta issued a €70 million call for tenders last February for the rebuilding of about 150 roads as part of the government’s €700-million pledge to redo all thoroughfares.

Because of the volume of work involved, the tender was divided into six lots, so contractors could bid for different jobs, allowing them to share the work with others. However, the sources said, at the closing date of this tender, it resulted that the various Maltese consortia formed specifically for the project had submitted bids that cost much more than those of foreign competitors.

The difference in the offers is not a few thousands

The indications were that Turkish firm, Excel Sis Enerji Uretim Construction, whose major shareholder is based in Istanbul, would likely snatch four of the lots, as its offer was about €20 million below the cheapest price quoted by the competing Maltese consortium, the sources added.

The other two lots were expected to be allocated to Building Energy Technologies Ltd, a firm owned by two Sicilian businessmen from Agrigento. In this case, the sources noted, the bid was about €12 million, or €6 million per lot, cheaper.

Times of Malta was told that Maltese businessmen, with apparently no track record in the road-building industry, could be involved as partners with the Turkish company. However, no further details were immediately available.

“Maltese road builders, including the big guns, such as Bonnici Brothers, Polidano, Schembri, Penza and others, were promised by the powers-that-be before the last election they will get so much work they would not even manage to do it all,” the sources said.

Some of them invested tens of millions of euros in new facilities, including tarmac batching plants, in an attempt to get as much work as possible.

“However, as things are turning out, although they still get contracts worth millions in direct orders on ‘minor’ jobs, the most lucrative work is ending up being done by foreign firms because they (the Maltese) are too expensive,” the sources commented.

Maltese road-building contractors are known to have protested with both the Prime Minister and the Transport Minister about this state of affairs. According to the sources they were informally told that, since the jobs involved EU procurement rules, there was not much that could be done.

Officials at Infrastructure Malta told this newspaper the prices being quoted by foreign firms indicated that Maltese contractors could well have been overcharging the government for years.

“The difference in the offers is not a few thousands. We are speaking of many millions for the same jobs,” one official said.

The tender is still being evaluated by the Contracts Department and no announcements have been made so far. However, the industry sources said they would be very surprised if the foreign firms were not successful given their much cheaper bids.

This is not the first time Maltese road builders have been outpriced. Last year, Maltese companies lost a €40-million contract for the building of the Marsa junction to another Turkish firm, Ayhanlar Yol Asfaltlama.

Trinita JV, a consortium formed of RM Construction Ltd, V&C Contractors and Schembri Barbros, had vehemently complained and also unsuccessfully filed an appeal in front of the Public Contracts Review Board.


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