The Malta Independent 20 June 2021, Sunday

Watch: Falzon ‘convinced’ internal scrutiny will be carried out on irregular SVP €274m contract

Giuseppe Attard Thursday, 29 April 2021, 10:38 Last update: about 3 months ago

Social solidarity Minister Michael Falzon said today he is convinced that “internal scrutiny” will be carried out into a highly irregular €274 million Saint Vincent de Paul contract.

The contract was given to a consortium formed by James Caterers Ltd and a subsidiary of the db Group in 2017, for the provision and servicing of 500 beds at the elderly care home.

The Auditor General has expressed doubt on whether the contract “secured value for money” and also found that no political authorisation to enter into a negotiated procedure with the consortium was requested from and provided by the Parliamentary Secretaries involved.

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Falzon was responsible for the elderly sector until last year’s reshuffle, when care homes were transferred under the responsibility of Michael Farrugia. Both ministers have passed the buck when asked who will be shouldering the political responsibility.

Quizzed by journalists on Thursday, Falzon said, “the report is what it is. Like any other report it will be scrutinised internally.”

Falzon said he had not had “the luxury of analysing the report” before it was tabled in Parliament on Wednesday but said “the government will take any steps that are deemed necessary.”

Asked if the contract will be cancelled, Falzon said this was not his decision to make. The sector no longer falls under his portfolio and he was not involved in the entire process, he continued.

He said that that the project was very much needed since it had effectively doubled the bed space at Saint Vincent de Paul.

“Without it, the elderly situation would have exploded. I understand that the wellbeing of the elderly might not be the NAO’s main concern. This is an innovative concept, and we will see how it works. But I am convinced that an internal scrutiny will be carried out.”

Asked who will shoulder political responsibility, he said he can only speak on his own behalf.

“There was no political interference on my part. The report makes it clear that the mechanism that should have been used by the government was in fact used and there was no political interference.”

Asked to explain the fact that the deal never went up before the Cabinet, Falzon said he cannot answer on issues he was not involved in.

He insisted he is no longer responsible for the sector. Pressed on the matter, Falzon said: “as journalists who have access to the NAO report from beforehand, how is possible that you do not know who is responsible for a sector?”

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