[WATCH] Michael Falzon on damning audit report: ‘Lives of the elderly not NAO’s concern’

Michael Falzon shrugs off damning NAO report on SVDP: ‘It’s no longer under my remit’

Social Solidarity Minister Michael Falzon
Social Solidarity Minister Michael Falzon
Michael Falzon on damning audit report: ‘Lives of the elderly not NAO’s concern’

Social Solidarity Minister Michael Falzon has shrugged off responsibility on an NAO report that found government broke the law when awarding a €274 million management contract at St Vincent de Paule home for the elderly.

What was intended to be a catering contract was turned into a mega-contract for the award of a new hospital wing built by the DB Group and James Caterers, by way of a negotiated procedure.

“I can only speak about myself, there was no political interference, at least from my end. The sector also no longer falls under my remit,” Falzon said.

The contract was awarded by negotiated procedure in November 2017. The same companies had already won a separate bid to build a new kitchen at SVPR and construct an extension.

In a damning 177-page report, the NAO said that SVPD, a government institution for the elderly, the Ministry for Family and Social Solidarity and the Department of Contracts “acted in breach of legislative provisions” when they sanctioned a negotiated procedure for the management of the new blocks on the basis of urgency.

Fielding questions on the report, the minister first called out journalists, saying he does not have their luxury in having the time to analyse the auditor’s findings before they are tabled in the House of Representatives.

“The report is what it is, and now we will carry out an internal assessment to see what can be amended,” he said.

“You are journalists, you have access to reports before they are published, you cannot see who is responsible?” Falzon said when asked who should shoulder responsibility for the findings. “I understand the Auditor’s Office does not care about the lives of the elderly, and it’s not his main concern, but one has to see how the new model works.”

He went on to defend government’s decision to buy the beds, stating the situation with the elderly would have spiralled out of control. “The country’s bed capacity increased by 50%.”

“What the report shows is that government made use of the right mechanism,” he said.

Former Social Solidarity minister Michael Farrugia, who at the time was the minister responsible for the sector, snubbed questions by the media on Wednesday, saying he “wasn’t involved in any of the stages of the process in any way.”