Prime Minister Robert Abela has questioned why a heavily criticised mega-investment at a home for the elderly was never raised at cabinet level during his predecessor's administration.  

Last week, a damning report by the auditor general slammed a €274 million contract to build and operate residential blocks and a kitchen at the St Vincent de Paul Residence.

The NAO found a series of serious shortcomings, missing documentation and political oversight failures concerning the mega-contract awarded to a consortium made up of James Caterers Ltd and a subsidiary of the DB Group in 2017.

It also said it was "incredulous" at the role played by parliamentary secretaries politically responsible for the project, saying "their failure to enquire as to the regularity of this procurement is in clear breach of their duty arising from the political post held." 

It said the deal appeared to be approved "without the sanction of cabinet or the parliamentary secretaries"

Weighing in on this, Abela on Monday said he would have expected a project like this to have been brought before the cabinet of ministers before being approved.

“You know how I work and there is no doubt that I expect a project like this to have been brought before cabinet," he said. "However, this project’s benefits are not few, and we need to continue benefiting from them,” he said.

Political responsibility for the project overlapped between administrations, with Michael Farrugia as minister and Justyne Caruana as parliamentary secretary responsible for the direct order and tendering process through to mid-2017, and minister Michael Falzon and parliamentary secretary Anthony Agius Decelis responsible following the 2017 general election.  

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

He was quick, however, to defend the merits of the investment, saying it had helped provide a better service to patients.  

Abela was speaking during an open cabinet meeting at the Inspire Foundation, an NGO focused on disability rights and services.  

The prime minister said the government was working on a new strategy on inclusivity that would have 13 objectives and 62 targeted actions meant to improve people’s lives.  

The strategy would see changes across a number of ministries and state entities to better introduce the concept of inclusively an accessibility.  

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