No direct order for elderly home extension, government insists

A 500-bed extension to St Vincent de Paul was awarded after a competitive process, the government says but it fails to explain a multi-million euro contract listed as a direct order that appeared in the Government Gazette

The controversy concerns a 500-bed extension to St Vincent de Paul
The controversy concerns a 500-bed extension to St Vincent de Paul

No direct order was awarded to a consortium tasked to build a 500-bed extension at St Vincent de Paul home for the elderly, the government said this afternoon.

The Parliamentary Secretariat for the Elderly flatly denied that a direct order was issued to JCL and MHC Consortium, a company formed between James Caterers and a subsidiary of the db Group.

“The contract for the extension of St Vincent de Paul was awarded according to procurement rules and approval from the Contracts Department was sought at every stage,” the statement said.

The story was first published by the Times of Malta, claiming that a direct order to the tune of €274 million was given for the construction of the extension and provision of care services at St Vincent de Paul.

READ ALSO: Government mum on elderly home billed as record €274 million direct order

Direct order listed in Government Gazette

However, in the statement released this afternoon, the parliamentary secretariat fails to explain how the same contract was described as a direct order in the Government Gazette of 20 July, 2018.

The direct order was listed under the Family Ministry and indicated as having been awarded on 9 November last year.

The direct order issued by St Vincent de Paul was listed as a contract for “management services of new hospital/ residence (part of public private partnership)” in the Government Gazette. It had a value of €273,649,698 and was awarded to JCL and MHC Consortium.

The statement by the parliamentary secretariat made no reference to this entry in the Government Gazette.

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna yesterday told MaltaToday he had not approved direct orders to the tune of €274 million but this news portal has not yet received replies to its questions about the same contract being listed as a direct order in the Government Gazette.

In its statement this afternoon, the parliamentary secretariat said that in November 2015 a public call was issued for a public private partnership, according to procurement rules.

Two offers for 2015 tender

Two offers were submitted and JCL & MHC Consortium was selected. The government said that this award was contested twice by the losing bidder.

The Public Contracts Review Board in September 2016 confirmed the original decision, which was again reconfirmed by the courts in a ruling handed down in February last year.

The government said that the contract was eventually signed with JCL & MHC, however the consortium decided to “improve its offer” and instead of the annual sum to be paid over the 10-year duration, invest in the facility to double the number of proposed beds over three years.

“This additional investment included the provision of ancillary services, ward management, nurses, carers, cleaners, catering and laundry services, maintenance and security,” the government said.

It added that this investment would pass on to the government after the contract expires.

The parliamentary secretariat said the contract would bring about savings of around €17 million for the government.

“The proposal made by JCL & MHC was forwarded to the Contracts Committee and was approved on the basis of technical and financial reports. This is normal practice in public procurement rules every time that a negotiated procedure is used,” the government said.

The new facility is expected to be operational within three years of the issuance of panning permits.

St Vincent de Paul will remain responsible for the clinical and medical services, while the private company will cater for the other services offered to elderly patients, the government said.

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