James Caterers guilty of breaching parliamentary privilege with threatening letter to National Audit Office

Speaker Anġlu Farrugia rules that James Caterers breached parliamentary privilege when it threatened to hold the NAO liable for any material damages as a result of an ongoing investigation into a St Vincent de Paul tender

The Speaker of the House Anglu Farrugia has ruled that James Caterers broke parliamentary privilege in a letter sent to the National Audit Office.   

Farrugia said the catering giant breached parliamentary privilege when it threatened to hold the NAO liable for any material damages as a result of an ongoing investigation. 

The catering company had threatened to hold the National Audit Office and its officers personally responsible for any reputational or material damage they are expecting on an audit of two tenders awarded to the company. 

The issue revolves around the awarding of a contract by the St Vincent De Paul Residence to James Caterers (JCL) and Malta Healthcare (MHC) in November 2017. The PAC had requested the investigation on 28 August 2018.   

The matter concerned a catering contract that was allowed to develop into a full-blow hospital wing for the State home for the elderly.   

In a letter to the Public Accounts Committee, the NAO had said James Caterers wrote to it on 17 February 2021 explaining it was close to signing off on a large international export contract of high value, and that any adverse public comments made about the company or the consortium will directly impact the negotiations. 

“In the event that negative or adverse comments are raised with respect to JCL or the consortium prejudicing thereby the final sensitive negotiations currently underway, JCL will have no option but to hold the NAO and its officers personally responsible for the reputational and material damage which JCL will suffer,” the letter read.  

In reply to the letter, the NAO had expressed its displeasure, calling it “extremely offensive and disturbing”.  

Auditor-General Charles Deguara passed on the letter to the PAC, asking its MPs for their support on the issue. 

“While the NAO will not be intimidated or adversely influenced in its work for Parliament, the matter is being brought to the attention of the Public Accounts Committee, whose support is being sought. This Office is certain that the Public Accounts Committee does not condone attempts at intimidation such as this.”