The Malta Independent 16 October 2019, Wednesday

More than €5m worth of direct orders awarded by six government entities in a year

Neil Camilleri Wednesday, 31 January 2018, 19:00 Last update: about 3 years ago

Six entities that fall under the responsibility of the Office of the Prime Minister issued direct orders worth over €5 million in the space of just over a year, data tabled in Parliament shows.

The information was provided by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat at the request of PN MP Jason Azzopardi. The Nationalist MP asked for a breakdown of DOs awarded by entities falling under the OPM between 1 December 2016 and the date of reply.

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The PM said DOs in the list were all in line with public procurement rules.

It covers direct orders issued by the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA), the Malta Communications Authority (MCA), the Malta Information Technology Agency (MITA), the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), the Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST) and Identity Malta.

The total amount issued in direct orders was €5.16 million. There were seven direct orders worth over €200,000.

The highest direct order, worth €552,272, was awarded by MITA for “IBM Informix Subscription and Support Contract.”

The agency also awarded a €227, 769 DO for “software maintenance and support of e-ID system” and another worth €298,792 for the “provision of Cisco Networking Equipment.”

 The MFSA awarded a direct order of €120,000 for the “provision of a White Paper focused on the description of MFSA structure and its regulatory and supervisory functions with the objective of providing a high level picture of the current regulatory and supervisory framework for the Maltese financial sector.”

MFSA also awarded a direct order of €267,647 for “Bandwith Provision and Related services (3 years) and another for €226,665 for the procurement of consultancy services.

The MGA awarded two direct orders worth more than €200,000 – one of €216,000 for “Global Reputation Management and International PR Services” and another of €228,000 for Technical Assistance on Anti-Money Laundering/combating financing of terrorism.”

Last year controversy had erupted over a direct order issued by the prison for the procurement of an IT system. The DO was worth €880,000.

At the time Finance Minister Edward Scicluna had said that there were instances when direct orders of a certain amount could be justified under certain conditions, such as urgent deadlines. “In normal circumstances, contracts of such value should go through the Contracts Department. If this does not happen, whoever was responsible for the decision must be held to account,” he had said.

A Pulic Procurement policy note issued by the Department of Contracts last June referred to a 2013 policy which “was issued with the intent to limit the use of the Direct Order procedure to the barest minimum and concurrently highlight the circumstances when this procedure may be used.”

These circumstances are:

a) When no tenders or no suitable tenders or no applications have been submitted in response to an open procedure;

b) When for technical or artistic reasons, or for reasons connected with the protection of exclusive rights, the services may be provided only by a particular economic operator;

c) Where the contract concerned is awarded subsequent to a design contest and must be awarded to the successful candidate or to one of the successful candidates;

d) In so far as is strictly necessary, when the time-limits for open, restricted or negotiated procedures referred to in the Public Procurement Regulations cannot be respected for reasons of extreme urgency occasioned by unforeseeable events. The circumstances invoked to justify urgency must not be attributable to the contracting authority;

e) In so far as is strictly necessary, for additional supplies, services and/or works not included in the project initially considered or in the contract first concluded but which have, through unforeseen circumstances, become necessary for the performance of the service or works or supplies described therein, on condition that the award is made to the economic operator executing the contract.

The same policy states that: “Where the estimated value meets or exceeds five thousand euro (€5,000), but does not exceed ten thousand euro (€10,000), the supplies, works or services may be procured departmentally either after obtaining quotations through government’s e-procurement platform or through a direct contract at the discretion of the Head of the Contracting Authority, taking into consideration the amount involved, the urgency attached to the procurement or restrictions of choice and availability.

In exceptional circumstances, following the prior written approval of the Minister responsible for that Contracting Authority, who may delegate his authority in writing to the Permanent Secretary or any other senior official in his Ministry, a Direct Contract may be issued by the Direct Orders Office, for the direct procurement of public works/services/supplies with an estimated value ranging between €10,000 and €134,999.99.”

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