The Vassallo Group, a pioneer in the provision of private elderly care, has suffered a major blow to its business by losing the management contract for the government’s Zammit Clapp home for the elderly to a relatively new competitor in the field.
Despite a hard-fought battle over the lucrative government tender, the Public Contracts Review Board (PCRB) threw out a challenge by the group of construction magnate Zaren Vassallo.
The board confirmed that the facility’s management is to be handed over to Golden Care Ltd, a company owned by Paul Attard, who is also involved in the GAP Group, another construction conglomerate.
The Shift reported last December that Zammit Clapp, better known as the Blue Sisters’ Hospital, in St Julian’s was poised for a change in management as Golden Care had managed to post a lower bid for the four-year contract issued by the government.
While Golden Care, which owns a private elderly facility in Naxxar, submitted an offer of €11.9 million, Zaren Vassallo’s Group, Care Malta, had put in a bid of €12.7 million.
Although the Department of Contracts had allocated the tender to Golden Care, as it posted the lowest price, the Vassallo Group protested and filed an appeal to try to reverse the decision.
Through Dalli Paris Advocates, co-owned by Luke Dalli – the son of former Labour minister Helena Dalli, the Vassallo Group argued that its rival, Golden Care, ought to have been disqualified from the bidding process as it did not have the necessary experience required by the tender’s criteria.
The tender stipulated that bidders had to provide evidence that they had managed and maintained an old people’s home with a capacity of at least 100 residents over the previous three years – 2018, 2019 and 2020.
According to Care Malta, their rivals had only started operating in 2019 and, as such, was not in conformity with the tender’s specs.
However, the PCRB threw out Care Malta’s appeal and said that the interpretation by the government-appointed evaluation committee was valid and confirmed the original decision to allocate the lucrative tender to Golden Care.
The Vassallo Group had been managing the government’s facility at Zammit Clapp since its inception as a home for the elderly in 2012.
After years of being closed, the former hospital had been turned into a state-of-the-art home for the elderly through a Private-Public Partnership between the government and the Vassallo Group.
Care Malta also manages several other government homes for the elderly, including facilities in Zejtun, Mellieha and Cospicua. It also benefits from other government schemes including the buying of several beds from its private elderly homes when state homes are filled to the brim.
The Vassallo Group is also in the running for another similar government facility in Gozo, Dar San Guzepp in Ghajnsielem, a contract that has been in the offing since 2013.
The residential home, the first such public facility on the island, was leased from the Gozo Curia by way of a secret deal but has never opened its doors due to a series of scandals.
A tender was finally adjudicated last year and the €30 million contract was awarded to Zaren Vassallo’s Care Malta.
However, an appeal was lodged by Vassallo’s Zammit Clapp rivals, Golden Care, and the adjudication has been ordered to start afresh.
No final decision has been taken yet by the government.