Facing “extreme urgency” to restore the Tritons Fountain in time for the Valletta 2018 events, the government has reopened talks with a joint venture which unsuccessfully bid for the job, this newspaper has learnt.

Last February, the General Contracts Committee decided not to forge ahead with the tendering process to restore the fountain, whose derelict state has turned it into an eyesore.

The interested parties were Trident Joint Venture, the Fountain Workshop Limited from the United Kingdom, Fonderia Artistica Ferdinando Marinelli SRL from Italy and MT. R Contracting Limited.

The committee decided that none of the bidders, who had taken part in a pre-qualification questionnaire, was “administratively compliant”.

At the time, the infrastructure ministry insisted that a fresh call should be issued to ensure that the project – which has been in the offing for five years – would materialise.

Negotiations are ongoing, and the contract is expected to be signed next month

Meanwhile, the ministry went ahead with plans to revamp the nearby City Gate ditch and the old bus terminus.

Unveiled last July, the whole project, including a restored Tritons Fountain, is earmarked for completion by the end of next year, so Valletta will be ready to host major events in connection with its European Capital of Culture status in 2018.

Though the facelift of the capital’s entrance should include a restored fountain, no fresh call for tenders was issued.

Replying to questions sent by The Sunday Times of Malta, a ministry spokeswoman pointed out that following the cancellation of the competitive dialogue procedure issued at this time last year, it was now faced with “extreme urgency” to meet the established date for the completion of the project.

For this reason, it sought approval from the General Contracts Committee to enter into what is technically known as a “negotiated procedure”, by virtue of a special clause in the public procurement regulations.

Such a procedure, which allows for the adjudication of a contract without prior publication, is only permitted when the time limits for open, restricted or negotiated procedures cannot be respected for reasons of “extreme urgency occasioned by unforeseeable events”.

However, the circumstances invoked to justify urgency must not be attributable to the contracting authority itself, the regulations state.

The spokeswoman said approval was granted last July and the ministry then started talks with the “joint venture” considered the best qualified from the four which had submitted bids.

“Negotiations are ongoing, and the contract is expected to be signed next month,” the spokeswoman said.

However, the name of the bidder was not divulged, with the ministry saying that the information would be released “soon”, following the conclusion of talks.

Meanwhile a tender for substructure works at Triton Square has been issued by the Grand Harbour Regeneration Corporation, which is overseeing the entire project. The tender sets a tight 24-week completion time frame.

The contractor will be expected to work 16 hours a day, including Saturdays, and reach certain targets within set time frames.  The call closes on December 6.


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