Elderly home extension proposed in contentious catering contract approved

A 490-bed extension to the St Vincent de Paul government home for the elderly was approved by the Planning Authority 

The Planning Authority has approved an extension to the St Vincent de Paul home for the elderly on land earmarked for this purpose in the Luqa local plan. 

All PA board members voted in favour of the extension on four new blocks to accommodate 490 residents. 

The expansion will respect the same height as the older SVDP building, which is already scheduled. All rooms will have a balcony. 

Architect George Pullicino, formerly a Nationalist minister for the environment, represented the applicant, but warned that future height extensions could not be excluded even on older buildings due to Malta’s ageing population. The structures will be able to support future extensions.

READ MORE Elderly home PPP is a direct order, but its label could have been misleading

The PN representative on the PA board Marthese Portelli, who ultimately voted in favour, raised the point that the Auditor General was still investigating public procurement procedures related to the development in question - namely, a massive catering contract to James Caterers that also invited prospective bidders to propose ancillary investment: in this case, it was the 490-bed SVDP extension. 

Portelli argued that the project was in the national interest, as the country required more beds. However, she also asked for clarifications from the CEO of the hospital that the project was a public one and was being awarded to the government body.  

PA board chairman Vince Cassar pointed out that the applicant in this case was the government. PA chief executive Johann Buttigieg clarified that a permit was being issued on the site irrespective of ownership issues. 

Another decision on a private home for the elderly outside development zones in Birgu’s Tal-Hawli area was deferred to another sitting following a request by the architect.

SVDP extension

The PPP for a kitchen facility and daily meals for St Vincent de Paul was said to have ballooned into a €274 million ‘direct order’ for a 500-bed extension to the elderly home.

The PPP document did contain a specific reference for a long-term care facility – although it is unclear why this most expensive part of the tender did not even earn itself a place in the title of the tender document.

The PPP – legally a direct order despite a contest between tenderers – is the subject of controversy after two catering giants vied for what was originally a €16 million call to provide daily meals to the residents of St Vincent de Paul home for the elderly.

The winning consortium, made of James Caterers and a DB Group company, was said to have clinched the tender by ‘gifting’ the government with the construction of a 500-bed extension to the government home.


Tenderers were requested to submit a detailed proposal of the additional investment and a cost report certified by a warranted independent auditor. The James-DB consortium first offered a 200-bed extension, but in the ensuring negotiations the government side forced the offer up to a 500-bed extension while the consortium would also be paid to manage the extension.

This was accorded 60% of the score, while the provision of three meals daily to the 1,100 residents and 1,090 care professionals for a 10-year period and construction of a new kitchen facility, was weighted at 40%. Both the kitchen and the extension will eventually become government property after at least 10 years.