Hundreds of carers, nurses, security and cleaning personnel at Mount Carmel Hospital are being provided by private companies and paid through government funds without any call for tenders and the necessary approval of the Finance Ministry, the Times of Malta is informed.
Sources close to the hospital told this newspaper that the procurement situation at the mental hospital facility was “completely out of control” despite various warnings by the government’s auditors.
“For some reason, the authorities are ignoring basic procurement regulations and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer funds are being paid every month to private entities supplying these workers,” an official at the hospital told this newspaper on condition of anonymity.
“The Health Ministry seems to be completely out of touch with what is going on and now it’s basically a free-for-all when it comes to payment to private companies and the verification that these costs are really giving value for money,” the official said.
The unhealthy situation at Mount Carmel Hospital had already been flagged in 2011 in a thorough report published by the National Audit Office.
Hundreds of thousands of taxpayer funds are being paid every month to private entities supplying these workers
However, instead of taking steps to correct the problems, a new report shows that the situation has now become worse, with tenders not being issued and instead keeping in place contractors without even seeking the approval of the Finance Ministry.
According to a follow-up audit, concluded by the NAO, evaluating the progress made since its last re-commendations at the hospital, it is clear that no progress has been registered, and in many areas the situation has even deteriorated.
A case in point is the provision of the so-called “nursing services” at the hospital provided by Health Services Malta Ltd – a company formed by the shareholders of James Caterers and the owners of the Seabank db Group.
The NAO found that while a tender for the provision of hundreds of carers had expired more than a year-and-a-half ago, the company was still kept in place without the issue of a new tender and the necessary approval of the Department of Contracts within the Finance Ministry.
“During a follow-up audit, in March 2018, Mount Carmel Hospital confirmed that the service by Health Services Malta Ltd was still ongoing, although the extension of the contract was not formally approved by the Department of Contracts following its expiry,” the report states.
The original €4.5 million contract given to the Seabank db Group subsidiary and James Caterers came to an end in April 2017, more than 18 months ago.
“No evidence of approval from the Ministry of Finance before the call for the contract of service was issued was made available,” the NAO insisted.
“Authorisation of hours of service to be provided by the contractor was also not forthcoming,” the audit office said.
This newspaper is informed that the same situation applied to other services being procured by the Mount Carmel Hospital administration including cleaning and security services.
Questions sent to the Health Ministry were not replied by the time of writing.
This newspaper has already reported a similar situation at St Vincent De Paul residence.
A contractor, X-Clean Ltd, is being paid over €300,000 a month by the government after being handpicked without a call for tenders.
Incidentally, the companies involved in the provision of carers at Mount Carmel, James Caterers and the Seabank db Group, are currently involved in a controversy over a €274 million contract by the government for a 500-bed extension of St Vincent De Paul.
Separately, the Seabank db Group was also given by the government the site of the former ITS to develop it into a mega-touristic and residential area.
While the site had been valued by a Planning Authority report at more than €200 million, the government agreed that the db Group pay only €15 million for the site, staggered over seven years.
Both the SVPR and the ITS projects are currently under the investigation of the NAO.