A multi-million euro tender for the provision of cleaning services at St Vincent De Paul Residence in Luqa is expected to be issued next month after three years in the making, Times of Malta has been told.

The Director General of Contracts, Anthony Cachia, told the newspaper cleaning operations at the elderly people’s home cost the government €88,000 a month until 2015. Documents seen by Times of Malta indicate that when the cleaning contract was awarded to a new operator through a direct order, the monthly bills shot up, reaching as high as €330,000 a month.

The Times of Malta has reported that X-Clean, a company owned by Denis Xuereb, of Naxxar, was selected to provide cleaning services without a call for tenders being issued. It was given the direct order when the Luqa complex was under the political remit of then family affairs minister Michael Farrugia.

It was officially registered as a company when it had already started providing cleaning services to St Vincent De Paul Residence.

Necessitated replanning and redrafting of the tender document several times

Public procurement rules only allow direct orders to be effective for six months, however, in this case, the company was allocated repeated direct orders, raking in a sum estimated to exceed €3 million a year.

Questions to both Family Affairs Minister Michael Falzon and Active Aging Parliamentary Secretary Anthony Agius Decelis on how X-Clean was selected and given repeated direct orders, by whom and why no fresh tenders had been issued since 2015 despite public procurement rules remain unanswered.

However, Mr Cachia said that a tender would be published next month and when asked why it had taken so long, he said that this was a complicated matter.

“The St Vincent De Paul administration invested time and resources to identify solutions and the optimal procurement procedure to cater for its needs.

“This, coupled with the sensitivity of the procurement in question and the exposure of employees to precarious work, necessitated re-planning and redrafting of the tender document several times to be able to adapt to this changing scenario,” he said.

Mr Cachia insisted his department’s approval was only for X-Clean to provide cleaning services at St Vincent de Paul. Times of Malta was told the same company was also providing services to other government old people’s homes within the framework of the same direct order covering the Luqa facility.

The last time a tender was issued for cleaning services at St Vincent de Paul residence was in 2011 and had an overall value of €3.2 million over three years.

The facility, which hosts more than 1,000 residents, was in the news earlier in the year when it emerged that a direct order valued at €274 million was approved by the government in relation to a 500-bed extension at the facility. The deal with James Caterers and a db Group subsidiary was approved as part of a public tender calling for the procurement of meals and the building of a new kitchen.

This tender is being investigated by the National Audit Office.