Opposition MPs oblige Contracts Department to probe €21m oncology tender

Move comes after The Shift’s investigations into suspicious procurement process

 

Opposition MPs have called on the Director General of the Departments of Contracts to probe the €21.49 million tender awarded to Technoline Ltd for a new cancer treatment facility at the Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre, which the MPs say appears to have been “tailor-made” for the winning bidder.

The letter by Opposition MPs Adrian Delia and Alex Borg, delivered on Friday, follows investigations by The Shift on the multi-million-euro tender.

They are concerned that not only was the tendering process highly suspect, but the country will be paying almost twice as much for the facility than had originally been planned, and that Malta’s cancer patients will not be getting the best equipment available on the market because the tender was geared toward one bidder in particular.

“This tender smacks of having been tailor-made,” Delia told The Shift on Saturday when contacted about how he and Borg have taken the case straight to the contracts department.

“The short timeframes granted, the choice of the cheapest price method instead of the price to value evaluation and joining a specialised equipment request with a construction project all point to bad practices and a total lack of good governance and transparency,” he added.

The Department of Contracts, following the MPs’ letter formally informing the department of technical compliance issues related to the tendering process, will now be obliged to take all necessary steps to ensure there was nothing untoward with either the offer or the tendering process itself.

Delia told The Shift on Saturday, “As Members of Parliament, I feel it is not only our place to ask questions and keep holding the government to account but, where necessary, take direct action to ascertain that the public is not short-changed and that good governance is the rule of the day in this case that public procurement takes place in total transparency.

“In this case, ensuring a level playing field at all times so that our country and its citizens are not robbed.”

A bidding process fraught with twists and turns

The number of twists and turns during the bidding process for the new oncology facility, as chronicled by The Shift since the beginning of the year, are mind-bending.

The call for tenders for the new cancer treatment facility closed in June, with only one bidder submitting a tender at almost twice the contract’s original price.

The Shift followed developments as it became increasingly clear that the tender was being designed to accommodate a single supplier, Technoline Ltd.

The Public Contracts Review Board (PCRB) was, in fact, asked to revoke the EU-funded tender over several “irregularities,” including breaches of EU rules.

The equipment itself accounts for just about half the tender’s value, with the increased costs being down to the questionable need to build a bunker to accommodate the medical machinery offered by Technoline, which submitted the sole bid of €21.5 million.

During the first round of the procurement process, it was clearly stated that the new machinery would need to be able to fit inside an existing bunker at the oncology hospital, which had been left vacant for this specific purpose.

The only problem appeared to be that the equipment being offered by Technoline did not actually fit into the bunker.

An internal report revealed by The Shift had found the bunker was perfectly fit for purpose despite the authorities’ claims to the contrary.

Technoline Ltd was one of the companies the so-called ‘investors’ in Vitals Global Healthcare acquired in a bid to maximise profits during their much-maligned stint in Malta.

The Shift had revealed how VGH’s secret owners had, in fact, funded a €5 million takeover of Technoline through companies in Jersey.

It was last year that the health ministry, together with the management of Mater Dei Hospital and the Foundation for Medical Services, issued a Preliminary Market Consultation to assess potential suppliers for a cancer treatment facility that was to be funded by the EU recovery fund.

An investigation by The Shift revealed that by the end of that process, in December 2021, government officials realised the empty bunker earmarked for the new machine would not be able to accommodate the machinery being offered by Technoline.

At the same time, however, other bidders insisted that they had no in problem supplying equipment that would fit into the existing designated bunker.

But Technoline, whose machine’s dimensions did not fit the bunker in question, suggested the construction of a new fifth bunker – grossly inflating the project’s price from the original €12 million to €21.49 million, with the suspected sole apparent purpose of accommodating the Technoline bid.

In their letter on Friday, Delia and Borg quoted from the preliminary Market Consultation published on 22 November 2021, which called for the installation of the machinery (an MRI Linac) within the oncology centre’s fourth bunker.

The PMC had specified, “The MRI LInac must be suitable to be housed in the current empty 4th bunker. Any structural changes within the bunker will be the onus of the supplier…”

‘Critical function’ absent from winning bid

The PMC, the MPs noted, closed on 21 December but just 10 days later, on 31 December, the Foundation for Medical Services received a request for services for the design of a whole new bunker.

They observed how plans for the fifth bunker were completed on 18 February, and the FMS had issued a structural report by 24 February.

Matters continued apace, with the tender for the EU-funded project, including the questionable fifth bunker, having been published on 17 April and with a deadline, the MPs highlighted, being a mere four weeks away.

The MPs say they have now learned that Technoline’s offer does not even include automatic beam gating for the MRI, which the PMC had described as a “critical function”.

The PMC had stipulated, “The system must avail itself of an automated gating mechanism which confers the ability for the machine to automatically turn the beam on and off according to the internal organ movements of the patient.

“This must be regarded as a critical function as it significantly enhances accuracy.”

But, the MPs noted in their letter, “The contracting authority decided against the use of the Negotiated Procedure, even if feedback it received from the PMC replies provided evidence that automatic beam gating is an innovative technology offered by one supplier only.

“Instead, it decided to promptly ask the FMS to design a fifth bunker and claim that the fourth bunker was not fit for purpose; blaming the issue on the corridor on the day of the hearing.”

The end result, according to Delia and Borg is that: “Technoline remains the only radiotherapy supplier at the oncology centre. Despite an abundance of funds, Malta will have a second-best option bereft of what experts in the field called for in both the PMC (automatic beam gating) and the tender document (reflexive technology).”

In addition to that, the MPs are predicting delays in cancer patients’ treatment because of the requirement to build a fifth bunker.

                           
                               
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Lawrence Mifsud
Lawrence Mifsud
15 days ago

The technicality boils down to corruption, today’s way of life.

Bamboccu
Bamboccu
15 days ago

Jista’ xi hadd jghidilna kemm qed jinghataw kuntratti tat Technoline?
Ejja niftakru li dawn flusna.
Tat Technoline qatt taw xi donazzjoni lill Partit Laborista?
Tat Technoline ghandhom xi qrubija mal Partit Laborista?

makjavel
makjavel
13 days ago
Reply to  Bamboccu

Fil gazzetta tal gvern tara il lista tal hbieb tal hbied li kontinwament ikollom id direct orders fuq kollox. Wiehed li qatt ma deher hu id-direct order biex helsu min Daphne. Dak kien sub contracted .

Francis Said
Francis Said
14 days ago

All this continues to confirm the incompetence, mal administration and the people appointed to ensure the best equipment and value for money.
Unfortunately, this government believes that taxpayers’ are there to be spent without control to repay those persons and companies that highly sponsor the PL.
This not only demeans our Democracy but the future of our Country. The high National Debt, the corruption, the lack of action by the police aided by the incompetence of the AG.

Joe Borg
Joe Borg
14 days ago

Blinded so badly by money that these ‘people’ sitting on evaulation committees decide to corrupt themselves even when faced with cancer patients. They cannot even choose which corrupt deals to take, they just want it all. Incredible.

Last edited 14 days ago by Joe Borg
carlos
carlos
14 days ago

Demostrazzjjoni ghall- kull skandlu. Ghandna ghall-sena shiha.

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