An internal technical report, drawn up by the Foundation for Medical Services (FMS) – which acts as the government’s project manager for health infrastructure – has approved the use of an existing empty cancer treatment bunker at the Oncology Hospital for the hosting of a new multimillion cancer treatment facility the government is in the process of procuring.
However, despite the green light, health ministry officials are still insisting on the need to build a new multi-million euro bunker as it appears that this is the only way the ‘preferred supplier’ of the multimillion MR Linac equipment can be accommodated, The Shift has learned.
Following The Shift’s investigation into an ongoing tender, in which it was revealed that the public procurement exercise is being manipulated to fit the requirements of a particular supplier, the FMS, led by Carmen Ciantar – a political appointee of Minister Chris Fearne’s – asked for a technical report on the state of the already existing empty bunker.
This was due to the ‘insistence’ of certain health officials that the existing bunker should be left empty and a new one constructed instead – implying an extra expense of many millions of euros for taxpayers.
According to the officials involved in the writing of the tender, the existing bunker is “not fit for purpose” as it has structural damage. Yet this now appears to be untrue.
In a letter sent to Celia Falzon, the CEO of Mater Dei, and seen by The Shift, the Head of Architecture at the FMS, Douglas Blieseur made it clear that an inspection found no particular damage and that the issue is just superficial.
“During the FMS task to investigate the practicability of the installation of a new MR Linac equipment, a crack was observed in the existing concrete wall at bunker 4,” Blieseur observed.
Explaining that this was a result of the methodology used when pouring concrete during the bunker’s construction, he insists that “the crack observed is not of structural concern and not part of our evaluation study for the installation of the new MR Linac. It is a superficial crack probably due to concrete shrinkage during curing”.
However, despite this report belying the justification health officials put forward to validate their claim for a new bunker, the report was ignored, and the tender, issued soon after the last general elections still included the need to construct a new bunker.
As a result, the procurement value for a new MR Linac project – mostly obtained through EU funds – suddenly shot up from an estimated €10 million to €24 million.
Why the insistence on a new bunker?
Originally, when the first phase of the procurement exercise started last November, the published terms made it clear that the new cancer-treatment equipment had to be installed in the empty, purpose-built existing bunker.
Three prospective bidders expressed their interest in providing the €10 million machine: Suratek, Charles de Giorgio Ltd and Technoline Ltd.
At the end of this preliminary process, in December 2021, it resulted that one of the prospective bidder’s machines did not fit the existing bunker and could only be procured if a new bunker was built. On the other hand, the machines provided by the other two prospective competitors complied with the original requirements.
Soon after the close of the first procurement phase, some health officials involved in writing the tender discovered that the fourth bunker was “not fit for purpose” because, they claimed, they suddenly noticed that it had structural damage. As a solution, they decided to write specifications into the tender requiring a freshly constructed bunker together with the MR Linac machine.
The tender now perfectly fits the requirements of the original prospective bidder whose machine was too large for the existing bunker. In addition, the value of the procurement was increased substantially and peppered with various “opportunities” for further cost variations.
So far, the health authorities have not explained why they have changed their plans to utilise an existing cancer-treatment bunker and have instead opted to procure a new one while leaving the existing one empty.