The government is refusing to give information on a number of direct orders given to the Gozo Curia worth tens of thousands of euro negotiated with former bishop Mario Grech before he was appointed Cardinal.
Under Grech’s stewardship, the Gozo Curia signed a number of lucrative deals involving some of its properties by renting them out to the government on long term contracts.
Questions in parliament were met with silence as the government is refusing to divulge any information, particularly on the monetary compensation paid through taxpayer funds towards the Church’s coffers, citing “commercial sensitivity”.
The Shift is reliably informed that during Labour’s first administration, when Anton Refalo was Gozo Minister, a number of agreements had been reached with Grech.
Just a few weeks after Labour was returned to power in 2013, the Gozo Ministry signed an agreement with the Curia for a historic property the Church owns in Ghajnsielem to be turned into a residence for the elderly run by the government.
Known as Dar San Guzepp, the Curia rented the property and adjacent land for an undisclosed number of years, so the government could build a multi-million state-of-the-art residence for the elderly, financed by taxpayers.
The agreement was signed seven years ago, but the residence for the elderly is still nowhere to be seen while the Gozo Curia is receiving significant rental income from government coffers while it retains ownership of the property. The government is also refusing to give details on the terms of this agreement, including its duration.
A recent tender by the government requesting bids to finish and run this home stipulates a duration of only seven years. The tender is still to be awarded.
The Shift has filed a Freedom of Information request for this contract with the Gozo Curia arguing that the government is duty-bound to be accountable and transparent in the way it uses public funds.
Apart from the Dar San Guzepp contract, the Gozo Ministry issued several other direct orders to the ecclesiastical authorities in Gozo.
These include agreements on the lease of property in Fontana, another in Rabat, a property to be used as a dental clinic in the Gozo capital and the hiring of the parish hall in Ghajnsielem to be used as a day centre during weekdays at a cost to taxpayers of €120,000 over several years.
The Gozo Ministry and the Gozo Curia have also signed various agreements that will see the government funding ongoing infrastructural projects for various parishes. These include the modernisation of the electricity system at the parish of San Gorg, Rabat, as well as restoration works at the Fontana church, the building of a community centre in Kercem and the funding of structure for the Xaghra parish.
All details of the costs involved in these agreements are being withheld by the Gozo Ministry.