Increased doubts over a possible ‘tainted’ procurement process of an EU-funded multi-million cancer treatment facility for the Oncology Hospital – an MR LINAC – continue to beset the health ministry, The Shift has learned.
Internal correspondence between officials involved in this ongoing procurement process shows a senior health official involved in the design of the tender suggesting to Mater Dei’s boss that they should leave the Foundation for Medical Services (FMS) out of the procurement process.
“Let us do this without the FMS. The more parties we involve, the more complicated it will get,” Chris Attard Montalto, the Director of Biomedicine Engineering suggested to Mater Dei’s CEO Celia Falzon.
Also, in a clear attempt to convince Falzon that the building of a new bunker should be part of the procurement process, instead using an existing empty bunker originally proposed host the new machinery, Attard Montalto quoted a clause in the original Preliminary Market Consultation process which did not exist.
Suggesting a reference to clause 1.6.2 in the original document when Falzon asked for a justification to spend more millions and ask for a new bunker when an existing one already existed, Attard Montalto wrote that “the option of a fifth bunker was always on the table at PMC stage, and this was the best option we decided upon.”
However, according to research made by The Shift, the PMC document which Attarad Montalto referred to does not contain any mention of a fifth bunker or the quoted clause he suggested to his CEO.
Asked by The Shift to confirm that Attard Montalto had sent her information which is not in the PMC document and to clarify whether she may have been misguided, Celia Falzon did not reply.
She also refused to say whether she had agreed with the head of the Biomedical Engineering to leave the FMS out of this tender.
The FMS – the health ministry’s project-management arm – is usually heavily involved in the skins of procurement process.
The issues around the questionable tendering process to spend around €25 million of EU funds on the acquisition of an MR LINAC began last November when a PMC was issued as a first stage of the procurement process.
At the time, the health authorities asked for the new cancer machine, originally valued at some €12 million, to be installed in an existing empty bunker beneath the oncology hospital.
However, soon after ‘consultation’ process ended, several officials involved in the tender realised that the government’s ‘preferred supplier’s machine did not fit the existing bunker.
To make it easier for the ‘preferred supplier’ – a known medical equipment company already involved in various scandals – the specifications of the procurement exercise were changed to allow the winning bidder to construct a new bunker to fit that specific machine.
While this significantly raised the costs of the project, from €12 million to €25 million, the fourth bunker, built specifically for the installation of the new machine will now remain empty.
One of the prospective bidders in this exercise, Charles De Giorgio Ltd, protested about the change in goalposts and has filed an appeal to stop the tender in front of the Public Contracts Review Board.
The government, through lawyer Alexia Farrugia Zrinzo, sister of Minister Zrinzo Azzopardi, who was responsible for EU funds up to a few weeks ago, has denied the claims, stating that a fifth bunker became necessary as the corridors leading to the current empty bunker are not strong enough to take the weight of the new cancer treatment machine.