Lease of Downtown Hotel as elderly residence 'not an abuse of power' - Standards Commissioner

The decision to lease the Downtown Hotel during COVID-19 was taken by Cabinet, after the nuns running the Lourdes Home deemed the location unsuitable as a home for the elderly

The Commissioner for Standards in Public Life has concluded that government's decision to lease the Downtown Hotel in Gozo for use as an elderly residence during COVID-19 did not represent an abuse of power nor breach of ethics.

The Commissioner reached this conclusion after a complaint was filed by independent election candidate Arnold Cassola against Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri.

In his complaint, Cassola alleged that the lease of the hotel was abusive because the Lourdes home, built on government land and un by the Dominican Sisters, was available as an alternative, and would have been less expensive than the Downtown Hotel.

According to the case report, the decision to lease the Downtown Hotel was taken by Cabinet. The nuns running the Lourdes Home considered the location to be unsuitable as a home for the elderly, and were unwilling to make it available for this purpose.

In light of this, the Commissioner did not uphold the complaint.

The case report further concluded that there were no grounds on which he could investigate the use of a direct order to lease the hotel, particularly when considering that direct orders were permissible under certain circumstances and that the country was facing a public health emergency.

The hotel was leased in 2020 as a precautionary measure against the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 70 senior citizens were transferred to the hotel from Gozo Hospital's Sant'Anna Ward due to the outbreak.

Subsequently, a report in the Times of Malta had quoted families of elderly residents describing the conditions within the hotel as "horrific" and "claustrophobic"

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