The government has spent as much as €510,000 on rent and professional services for an unfinished project to create a high-end residence for the elderly in Gozo, according to documents submitted to parliament and a 2017 statement by former Gozo Minister Anton Refalo.
However, Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri is still defending the deal’s secrecy and last week again brushed off questions in parliament about the controversial, undisclosed 2013 lease of Dar San Guzepp in Ghajnsielem. The question specifically referred to a TVM report citing former Gozo Minister Anton Refalo confirming to the MCESD in 2017 that the deal is costing €60,000 a year and covers 30 years.
A parliamentary question from PN MP Chris Said in July 2020 revealed that in addition to paying tens of thousands of euros on annual rent, the government had spent as much as €90,250 on fees to professional services providers, such as lawyers, architects and engineers, between 2016 and 2020.
The building was leased from the Gozo Curia in 2013, and intended for conversion into a high-end 140-bed residence for the elderly. However, seven years later, it still hasn’t begun operating. Some work was carried out in 2014-2015, but the project then stalled and the facility has yet to welcome a single resident.
In his 3 June response to a 28 May parliamentary question from PN MP Joseph Ellis, Camilleri referred to a previous, 2017 reply from former Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana on the secretive deal, that cited “commercial sensitivity” as the reason for the non-publication of the agreement.
Both the government and the Church have refused to publish details of the lease, and a Freedom of Information request three months ago from The Shift asking for the publication of the contract has been ignored.
The government put out a tender for the refurbishment, maintenance and operation of the facility in early 2020. This closed nine months later, in September 2020, but has so far not been adjudicated or awarded – wasting another year in which rent continues to be paid.
Four offers were received, with costs varying between €28 million and €38 million. The Shift revealed two weeks ago that the tender contract would only run for seven years before having to be returned, making it minimally attractive to bidders.
Dar San Guzepp, a run-down, former Church-run youth hostel, was leased by the government from the Curia via a secret deal with the Church in Gozo.