Construct Furniture shareholders have won millions of dollars in government contracts since 2013
Construct Furniture, the company currently facing legal proceedings for the fatal industrial accident that claimed the life of 17-year-old Matthew Bartolo in 2015, has directly received at least € 592,320 from 25 contracts, tenders and direct government orders in the past. eight years, with the exception of other contracts awarded to shareholders.
Based on figures available in the Government Gazette, € 213,030 alone was granted to Construct Furniture in 2015 to supply, deliver and install office furniture and other such items in the Brussels House in Malta , attributed three months after the incident that led to Bartolo’s death.
Some of the 2014 and 2015 contracts did not receive a value in the Government Gazette volumes that featured them.
One of the most frequent users of Construct Furniture’s services was the Prime Minister’s Office (OPM) of Joseph Muscat, with a steady stream of annual orders for office renovations each year from 2014 to 2017.
Construct Furniture’s business profile had, in fact, been significantly boosted by an advertisement in which Muscat himself essentially fulfilled the role of seller for the company, including a feature with what were supposed to be early home buyers who later proved being the son of the owner of Construct Furniture and his wife.
While two of these annual OPM renovation exercises of 2014 and 2015 were not valued, the renovations carried out in 2016 and the installation of furniture carried out in 2017 alone cost taxpayers a total of 95 € 527.
Overall, all kinds of ministries and entities have contracted, tendered or directly ordered to build furniture or any of its branches at some point, including the ministry of Energy and Health under former disgraced Minister Konrad Mizzi, Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure under former Minister Joe Mizzi as well as current Minister Ian Borg, Ministry of Environment headed by Minister Aaron Farrugia and the Kottonera Foundation, largely under the direction of Government Whip Glenn Bedingfield.
The Shift’s investigation into the intimate relationship between the government and Construct Furniture was boosted by an interview with the Bartolo family published on October 29, whose appeals to justice were delayed by lengthy legal proceedings. An email sent to Construct Furniture inviting the company to comment on the interview content went unanswered.
In the interview, the Bartolo family spoke of the heartbreak of waiting in limbo for some form of justice for their deceased teenage son while working on his first full-time job, pointing out that six years later they don’t know still not who was responsible for their son’s death.
The Bartolo family weren’t the only third party trying to sort out the outstanding issues with Construct Furniture. Gareth Galdes, a 16-year-old working at Construct Furniture in 2008, was seriously injured after three weeks on the job. Galdes received no compensation and company director John Agius was fined € 4,000 a decade later, in 2018.
Another former employee of the company, Daniel Mercieca, who spoke out against the practices of his former employer, contacted The Shift after the publication of the Bartolo family interview to say that he was trying to claim € 3,000 in unpaid commissions from Construct Furniture.
The directors and shareholders of Construct Furniture are members of the Agius and Camilleri families, including John Agius and Adolfo, Alfiero, Enrico and Valerio Camilleri. The two families have important business connections in Malta.
In addition to securing a significant share of the € 35 million Kappara junction project through a consortium owned by Construct Furniture among other shareholders, the same shareholders are also behind Bava Holdings Ltd. Bava Holdings and Construct Furniture received € 526,000 in direct orders for the Ta ‘Kandja Shooting Range Project, the costs of which nearly doubled throughout its development.
According to further the news, Bava Holdings also won three direct orders from Infrastructure Malta worth just over € 1 million. Another company partly owned by Bava Holdings, BI Ventures, won 14 direct orders in the first six months of this year, for a total amount of € 120,000.
Besides Bava Holdings and BI Ventures, the Camilleri family is also linked to Kis Services Ltd and Specialist Group Cleaners Ltd. The latter company was awarded a contract this year for € 814,520 to provide cleaning services for various sites administered by Aġenzija Sapport.
Specialist Group Cleaners has also been awarded a total of 2.3 million euros for the provision of ‘environmentally friendly cleaning services’ spread over two contracts, one covering services provided to colleges and schools. public and the other to the courts of justice and the prosecution office.
Another contract for the same services was awarded to Specialist Group Cleaners through Identity Malta in 2015 – the exact value of this contract is unknown as only the hourly rate was cited in the Government Gazette.