MaltaToday | 24 August 2008

NEWS | Sunday, 24 August 2008

MTA to take action against St Martin’s College

Because of what has been described as an oversight, the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) has asked one of its enforcement officers to look into an outstanding legal issue concerning the EC Group, which for the last 18 months has been operating a dormitory facility at St Martin’s College without the necessary license cover.
The dormitories are intended to generate additional revenue for the independent school in offering boarding to its own students, as well as to students of English following a course at EC Language School, which along with St Martin’s College, is an EC Group subsidiary.
But college dormitories need to be covered by a hostel permit granted by the MTA, and this was made clear to St Martin’s College some eighteen months ago, at a time when operators were still confused on where regulation on school premises stops with the Education Division and where it starts with the MTA.
But while EC Group eagerly awaits the MTA to give the green light for the issue of a permit, St Martin’s carries on hosting boarding guests at the school and the facility’s Operations Manager Nello Calleja believes this is above board.
“The MTA is informed that dormitories are being used and they never asked us to shut down,” Calleja commented.
But judging by the initial reactions of the recently appointed Chief Executive at MTA upon learning of the case, the relevant authorities beg to differ.
“I don’t have the full details of the case but I can assure you that nobody is allowed to operate without a licence,” MTA’s Josef Formosa Gauci told MaltaToday.
After taking some time to look into the details of the case, Formosa Gauci informed this newspaper that he has alerted an enforcement officer to take action against the school.
Asked to verify whether the MTA had been truly informed that St Martin’s was operating its dormitories without a licence, Formosa Gauci said: “To my knowledge, no we were not informed.”
But when reminded that dormitories at St Martin’s were prominently featured in the media of late, when language students had to be evacuated from their dormitories in the middle of the night after an adjacent field went ablaze, Formosa Gauci said: “We’re only looking into the full details of the case now.”
But if St Martin’s did not waste time in submitting its permit application soon after learning of the legal requirements, why has it taken the MTA 18 months to issue a licence?
“It is true that some paperwork was submitted 18 months ago, but the full documentation was only submitted two weeks ago,” Formosa Gauci explained.
Other than that, MTA is confident in the issue of a permit for the facility, describing the application as “not problematic”.
On his part, a concerned EC Group CEO, Andrew Mangion, later contacted this newspaper in order to clarify his position over the matter. “I trust that this issue will be resolved in the shortest time possible. The school has a strong reputation, which it plans on maintaining. We will be co-operating with the MTA to resolve this oversight in the nearest time possible,” he said.

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