Turkish firm accuses Maltese road contract objectors of xenophobia

War of words over Marsa junction contract

Minister Ian Borg spoke at the launch of the Marsa junction project (illustrated at right).

Minister Ian Borg spoke at the launch of the Marsa junction project (illustrated at right).

The Turkish company entrusted with the Marsa junction project is accusing the Maltese contractors who have objected to its selection of “xenophobia” and using “reprehensible language and tone”.

After a lengthy adjudication process, the Contracts Department last month allocated the contract, worth almost €40 million, to Ayhanlar Yol Asfaltlama, which has a track record of building junctions and highways.

The decision did not go down well with Trinità JV, a consortium of Maltese road builders composed of RM Construction Ltd, V&C contractors, Schembri Barbros Ltd and others, who also bid for the job.

Times of Malta is informed that the Turkish bid was cheaper than the consortium’s, prompting a strong protest to the Office of the Prime Minister.

In an appeal to the Public Contracts Review Board, which cost €50,000 to file, the contractors argued that the Turkish company should be disqualified for a number of reasons, including the fact that it was not a European company and also because it paid lower wages compared to companies from Malta.

“Ayhanlar denounces the reprehensible language, tone and structure of the letter of objection [from the Maltese contractors], which is full of speculation, unfounded allegations and evident xenophobia,” the company’s lawyers said in a strongly worded reply to the appeal, according to building industry sources.

Arrogant to say barriers should be raised with the rest of the world

Insisting such arguments by the Maltese contractors were unacceptable in today’s world, Ayhanlar asked for “the appalling language and innuendo used” in its regard to be formally censored, the sources added.

Ayhanlar argued that, apart from the fact that their bid was at least €500,000 less, it had an active project portfolio in excess of €100 million and a turnover six times the combined turnover of the Maltese companies forming the consortium.

Saying the company needed “no lectures” on road building, it slammed “the arrogant assertion that EU and Maltese funds are for EU and Maltese companies, and barriers should be raised with the rest of the world lest it steal some part of the cake which, by right, belongs to Maltese road construction contractors”.

Noting that the government was bound to ensure the best value for public money, Ayhanlar argued its successful bid could represent a “cultural shift in the Maltese infrastructure market, which, as is apparent from the tone and feel of the Maltese objectors, is dominated by coordinated behaviour which may serve to benefit local economic operators but do so to the detriment of taxpayers and road users”.

Sources said Ayhanlar accused the contractors of objecting only because it was foreign. It insisted its bid specifications should not be passed to competitors which were fishing “to acquire information on foreign unknown entities which are not part of a cartel and whose methods, pricing structures and set up are unknown”.

Through Transport Malta the government had said the Maltese contractors’ appeal should be rejected, dubbing it “puerile” and baseless, the sources added.

A decision is expected in the coming days. The sources pointed out the Maltese could still turn to the courts if they disagree.

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