A new €4 million state-of-the-art kitchen inaugurated almost a year ago at St Vincent De Paul Residence has never been used to prepare meals for residents and staff, Times of Malta is informed.
Instead, food is being supplied by contractor James Caterers, cooked at the company’s facilities in Fgura and Bulebel and then transported every morning to the government elderly people’s home in Luqa. The meals are then stored inside the new kitchen and distributed during the day, catering industry sources said.
“The new kitchen is only being used as a storage facility by the contractor and also for the washing of trolleys and other related equipment before they are sent back to the private caterer to be re-used in the following days,” senior officials at the Luqa complex told the newspaper, insisting on anonymity.
The new kitchen was “sheer waste of money” and justifiably raised suspicion that the project was really meant to serve another purpose other than cooking food, they added.
When approached, Vincent de Paul Residence CEO Josianne Cutajar admitted that “some of the food preparation and processing is being done in offsite facilities”. However, she insisted some of the food “is also being processed at St Vincent De Paul”. Pressed to give details on the cooking which is being handled by the new kitchen, Dr Cutajar did not reply.
At the kitchen inauguration last June, the Parliamentary Secretary for Active Ageing, Anthony Agius Decelis said the new facility would greatly improve the quality of food given to residents. He had dubbed the new kitchen as “the biggest project Malta has seen” for the benefit of the elderly.
Companies bidding for a multi-million-euro tender for a 10-year catering contract at the elderly people’s home had to commit themselves to build an industrial kitchen if they were awarded the contract.
New kitchen sheer waste of money
Times of Malta had reported that, following the adjudication of the tender, originally valued at about €60 million over 10 years, the government had entered into new negotiations with the winning consortium – a joint venture made up of James Caterers and a subsidiary of the db Group – morphing the contract into the building of a 500-bed extension to the hospital, outside the original scope of the call.
In return for this extension, for which the state would not be charged arguing it formed part of the catering contract, the government had agreed to issue an unprecedented €274-million direct order to the two successful bidders, giving them on an exclusive basis the right to manage the new extension over a 10-year period.
The Nationalist and Democratic parties spoke of “foul play” and the contract is now being investigated by the National Audit Office, although work on the project continued in full swing.
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