The government is carrying out various infrastructural works on private roads in Qormi and Żebbuġ using taxpayer funds despite that such works should have been carried out and paid for by private owners, Times of Malta is informed.
Through its new roads agency, Infrastructure Malta, works have already been done in Żebbuġ, asphalting stretches of private streets which lead to complexes of garages built years ago.
Following reports reaching the newspaper, Times of Malta on Monday witnessed ongoing works on a similar private garage complex in Qormi where a company contracted by Infrastructure Malta was rebuilding the streets and installing new underground services in preparation for a final level of fresh tarmac.
Works are being done on the eve of another electoral campaign, with local and MEP elections slated for May 25.
Qormi and Żebbuġ form part of the sixth and seventh electoral districts which incidentally are represented in Parliament by Minister Ian Borg, responsible for the roads agency.
“Just a few weeks ago a Labour candidate for the local council came to tell me at my garage that Ian (Minister Borg) will be doing up our road,” a garage owner in Qormi’s Bellic Street, told the newspaper.
“We were always told that since this is a private road the government is not responsible and works have to be carried either by the owner, who sold us his garages, or by us if we didn’t pay the owner for the road when we purchased our garages,” he said.
“However, it seems that the coming elections have at least served us for something,” the garage owner added.
A similar situation occurred just a few weeks ago in Żebbuġ. Private streets forming part of a garage complex in Triq Dun Mikiel Xerri were dug up and new tarmac was laid after new pavements were constructed at government’s expense.
A 55-year-old owner of a garage in the street, who said he had been lobbying with the garages’ developer for the tarmacking of the road for years, let slip that “the dentist had surely helped out”, referring to former Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando who has his private dental clinic on one of the corners of the freshly surfaced private road.
Asked to confirm the works on private roads, an Infrastructure Malta spokesman at first avoided giving a direct reply and instead said that “these were publicly accessible” streets.
Pressed to state whether the roads in question are privately owned and to explain why the government had spent tens of thousands of euros from public funds for works which were supposed to be carried by the road owners, the spokesman admitted that these were indeed privately-owned streets.
“The indicated roads were originally formed for private use but through the years became publicly-accessible and started being used as public roads,” the spokesman said.
“Infrastructure Malta carried out the required repairs in view of their public utility, and in line with applicable road work regulations.”
Quoting new road regulations, enacted only last year through subsidiary legislation, the spokesman said that the rules allow such intervention.
“The agency may, at any time, carry out or cause or allow to be carried out in and under any private road and work whatsoever which it considers necessary or useful on grounds of public utility.”
However, the government agency failed to state that the same rules clearly state that works on private roads are to be paid by private owners.
The rules Infrastructure Malta did not quote
“The owners of any property immediately abutting on any private road or the persons holding such property on emphyteutical lease shall, for the purpose of this part, be deemed to be the persons who opened such road and the owners thereof:
Provided that any person who is bound to carry out any work in any such road shall be entitled to bring against third parties any civil action, admissible according to law, for the recovery of any expenses incurred in the execution of the work.
The Agency shall be enabled to carry out, or as the case may be, to continue the carrying out of all or any of the works (in private roads) after having given the owner notice by registered letter of its decision so to do: any such works shall be carried out at the expense of the person who has opened the road.
Every private road, including the footway thereof, shall, on notice by registered letter given by the Authority, be asphalted or surfaced otherwise as indicated by the Authority, by the Agency, at the owner’s expense.
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