The government will be raking in about €7 million from the sale of new graves at the Santa Maria Addolorata cemetery following the privatisation of the island’s national burial place.
The government has raised the price of graves from €5,000 to €8,000 each. This indicates it will make a profit of €2,700 per grave, or 35 per cent, from the creation of 2,880 new graves.
They will be built on land at the back of the cemetery that forms an extension measuring some 26,000 square metres.
The Health Ministry has denied it will make any profit from the graves, but public documents appear to show otherwise.
In 2016, the government issued a call for tenders to establish a public-private partnership for the cemetery. Following a lengthy process, it was announced a few weeks ago that Campo Santo – a joint venture formed by Polidano Brothers Limited, Camray Company Limited and Mario Tonna – had been awarded the 15-year concession for €15.1 million.
Apart from covering the cost of the new graves, public documents related to the concession say the money to be paid to Campo Santo over the coming years also covers “restoration of parts of the complex, the operations, maintenance and landscaping of the entire national cemetery and possible commercialisation of the process”.
A joint venture was awarded the 15-year concession for €15.1 million
The concessionaire will also become responsible for all government employees currently working at the cemetery under their existing conditions.
The government will sell the graves at €8,000 each, the documents show – and this will provide the Health Ministry with an income of over €22 million, or €7 million more than it will pay Campo Santo over the concession period.
Asked to explain why the government stands to make such a high profit from the sale of graves, a spokeswoman for Minister Chris Fearne at first denied this was true.
Later presented with calcluations by the newspaper, she said that “the income from the sale of graves will be financing the whole project”, which includes restoration and maintenance.
The Sunday Times of Malta pointed out that according to the tender documents, the restoration and maintenance now being cited by the government to justify its profit were part of the issued call for tenders. The ministry insisted the value of the tender “does not include project management and landscaping fees, including reports for the lifetime of the concession”.
Industry sources said it was clear the government was set to make a substantial profit from graves. While there was nothing wrong with a private company making a profit, they questioned how moral it was for the government to do so.
Graves at the Addolorata are in high demand. A government call in 2013 for four-tier graves at €5,000 each drew many applications, with some 385 promise-of-sale agreements already signed. The rest will now be sold at €8,000 per grave.
In total, 1,293 applicants have signed a promise-of-sale, the majority buying at the new price, while 184 applicants are in the process of signing a contract.
Did you know?
There are nearly 16,000 burial plots at the Santa Maria Addolorata complex, with 1,200 being public, communal graves. The latter are owned by the government and managed by the Health Ministry, including their upkeep as well as relevant exhumations and internal cleaning.
The public, communal graves mainly serve as social assistance to those persons who do not own a burial site.
The remaining graves, numbering 14,800, are all privately owned, and the responsibility for their maintenance rests with their owners.