The financial advisers behind the setting up of Panama-based companies for Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri have been given a new €17,000 direct order – to draw up a study on public conveniences.

The direct order was issued by Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis last week, at the same time as the Panama scandal was unfolding.

The contract, awarded without a tender to Nexia BT Advisory Services Ltd, is to draw up a feasibility study on the upgrading and manning of public conveniences in the central part of Malta.

Government sources told this newspaper that Nexia BT was expected to propose a model of public private partnership for the management of these facilities.

Direct order was issued last week

So far, Minister Zammit Lewis has not explained why Nexia BT was handpicked to draw up this study and why no call for tenders was issued. Asked to specify whether the selected advisory firm had any particular expertise in the field, the minister did not reply.

Nexia BT has been in the headlines for the past two weeks after news emerged that Nexia BT was the financial adviser behind Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri’s complex financial vehicles. So far, neither of the two persons in question have provided details on the payments made to Nexia BT for their services.

Nexia BT has been awarded numerous direct orders and tenders by the government running into hundreds of thousands since Labour returned to power. However, the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry for Energy and Health are refusing to give the Times of Malta a list of all payments made to Nexia BT by government since March 2013.

Nexia BT is also the auditing firm for Mr Schembri’s private business – the Kasco Group – and also for the main local companies in the Electrogas consortium, which is building the new gas-fired power station in Delimara.