The Malta Independent 12 May 2021, Wednesday

€274 million St Vincent de Paul contract should have had cabinet approval, Prime Minister admits

Monday, 3 May 2021, 12:11 Last update: about 8 days ago

A much-criticised 274 million contract between the government and James Caterers for the St. Vincent de Paul residence should have had Cabinet approval, Prime Minister Robert Abela admitted on Monday.

Abela questioned why the process for the contract, which was slammed by the National Audit Office in a 170-page long report, was never raised at Cabinet level during his predecessor’s administration.

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The NAO’s damning report found a series of shortcomings, missing documentation, and major oversights in the awarding of the 274 million negotiated procedure for the building and operation of residential blocks and a kitchen at the St Vincent de Paul residence.

The report also found that the deal was approved without being sanctioned by the Cabinet or parliamentary secretaries.

“You know how I work and there is no doubt that I expect a project like this to have been brought before cabinet," Abela said of the report.

"However, this project’s benefits are not few, and we need to continue benefiting from them,” he added, before defending the merits of the investment which he said had provided a better service to patients.

Abela said the NAO report was being analysed and said the necessary action would be taken once all the facts had been established

Abela was speaking during the opening of a cabinet meeting on Monday morning which was conducted on the Inspire premises.

There he reminded about the importance of taking heartfelt decisions in order to leave no one behind especially during a pandemic.

“We have to leave a legacy not of good credit rating scores but a legacy of positive family experiences” Abela said with reference to the agenda of the cabinet meeting.

“In our economic recovery journey, the minority groups, pensioners and people with disability have an important role to play” he said. Abela then argued that the only way we can improve on the situation is by acknowledging it and then acting on it by creating reforms in housing, criminality and homelessness and disability.

“During the pandemic, not only did we keep the poverty situation under control but the amount of people considered to be severely materially deprived has decreased”, Abela said.

The next step is to look at the National Strategy for the rights of people with disability, he said. Through this strategy, Malta would conform itself with the United Nations convention with regards to the rights of people with disabilities.

This strategy will soon be open for public consultation and includes, as Abela stated, “13 objectives and 62 actions which are the tangible way to improve inclusivity through different mediums such as broadcasting, sports, transport and other aspects of daily life to be more accessible”

Abela also said that this strategy is a multi-ministerial undertaking which will see reforms on all fronts of government.

Minister for Social Solidarity Michael Falzon started off his segment by celebrating the 65th anniversary of the introduction of the social security law. “There are two aims of this law, to protect social justices and to introduce social solidarity in our communities”

During the period of 2013 and 2020 almost 2 billion were spent on providing social security benefits to struggling people. “The fruit of this investment is in the statistics where in 2020, Malta was one of only 3 countries in the European Union where the rate of unemployment went down”, Falzon said.

Falzon stated that “throughout the last 8 years, there was an 80% reduction in unemployment […] and 90% of what was promised in the last budget in enacted”.

The 90% included an increase in allowances, mechanisms to introduce more people to the workforce and much more with regards to Covid-19 supplement to help safeguard employment.

Minister for Senior Citizens Michael Farrugia spoke about the further investment that the government is doing with regards to the elderly, elderly care homes and most importantly the families of the elderly.

“We are not only looking after the elderly but also their families as we want the elderly to live in the communities they grew up in without any fears”, Farrugia said.

The investments include specific machinery to aid independent living, improving facilities of elderly care homes, tackling dementia and independent living as well as reducing the digital divide when it comes to the elderly.

Minister for Inclusion Julia Farrugia Portelli closed off the opening speeches by stating that Malta has to send the message that “there are no frontiers when it comes to ability”

This message is being supported by various reforms in various sectors such as autism, public consultations on disability and investments in specific sectors to aid people to live independently as is their right, she said.

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