Ministry appeals FOI ruling on €49 million expenditure on private homes

All contracts are signed in complete secrecy, through direct orders, with rates and conditions negotiated on an ad hoc basis

 

The Ministry for Senior Citizens and Active Ageing is refusing to abide by a Data Protection Commission decision won by The Shift for transparency in the way it is spending some €49 million of public funds a year on private homes for the elderly by insisting it does not feel it needs to provide such information.

Contesting a decision taken a few weeks ago by the Data Protection Commissioner that slammed the ministry for its outright refusal to provide The Shift with copies of contracts for the purchase of beds at various private homes for the elderly, Jo Etienne Abela’s ministry, through Gozitan lawyer Kevin Mompalao, filed an appeal disputing the decision.

According to Mompalao, since the ministry has already given certain information to the National Audit Office, a completely different entity, it feels that it should not give any more information to any other institution, including the media.

The Appeals Tribunal, headed by seasoned lawyer Anna Mallia, is now expected to decide on this case.

The issue dates back to 21 December when The Shift asked the ministry for copies of contracts related to the ‘residential care in private homes scheme’ being operated by the ministry.

The scheme, which started years ago, helps with the provision of residential care in other homes for the elderly not owned by the government. It has seen exponential growth over the past years, but amid a total lack of rules and transparency since its inception.

While it is estimated the government will be leasing some 1,500 beds in various private care homes this year, no one is being informed of the exact number of beds and their rates as per the contracts.

Citing commercial sensitivity, the government has always refused to give any specific details, even to parliament.

Investigations by The Shift have established that there are no real rules determining the need for such beds, the amount leased, from which home and location.

All contracts are signed in complete secrecy, through direct orders, with rates and conditions negotiated on an ad hoc basis directly between ministry officials, usually headed by Active Ageing Agency CEO Renzo De Gabriele and the private owners of individual residences.

This has already resulted in a hotchpotch of conditions and contracts with substantial discrepancies in payments between different private homes.

According to an NAO audit, the government is paying some €120 a day for each bed in one particular home while another is receiving just €65 a day.

Also, while until a few years ago, the budget allocated to the scheme had been somewhat restricted – at around €9 million in 2016 – it has now ballooned to some €49 million a year, with the government itself ‘buying’ most of the beds provided by the mushrooming lucrative private sector.

The Shift is informed of businessmen, mostly building contractors, who invested in new residential homes after being promised contracts by the government to ‘buy’ most of the bedspace in their still-to-be-built homes.

The scheme, through which elderly persons are accommodated in private residential homes, also turns out to be helpful when it comes to vote buying and political favours.

Businesspeople in the field who spoke to The Shift dubbed the current administration of the scheme as “a convenient way for the government to curry favour in exchange of votes” as even the rules on how the elderly are recommended and to which home they are to be admitted “change from one day to the other”.

“Since we are now depending on the government to buy our beds, we can’t really refuse any recommendations from the ministry,” said one businessman who has been in the business for years.

Others complain about the lack of rules and the different terms being negotiated by the government.

“There is no explanation of why the government leased 100 beds from one home and just 40 from another, nor even why one is paid €65 a bed and the other €80. It’s just the rule of the jungle, and no one bothers to look at what is really going on. Not even the Opposition,” another insider from the sector complained.

Until the Data Protection Commissioner’s decision ordering the ministry to make its contracts available to The Shift, the ministry has held everything under wraps. It is now disputing the order to lift the lid on how it is spending tens of millions of euro of taxpayer funds.

“The scheme, as it is being administered, leaves much to be desired and is open to sleaze and possible corruption. That is why the ministry needs to come clean on the expenditure issue. This is public money, and the government is obliged to be transparent,” industry sources insisted.

                           
                           
                               
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M.Galea
M.Galea
14 days ago

Dr. Mampalau says a lot! Basta jikteb l artikli ta xi wiehed qaddis!

makjavel
makjavel
14 days ago

Only thieves cover their loot. There nothing else to say except that the Minister is covering a rip off , using an illegal contract. Like the FKNK land contract. Definitely dirty underwear in the Ministry.

mick
mick
14 days ago
Reply to  makjavel

He’s probably got a vested interest in it.

Michael Satariano
Michael Satariano
14 days ago

“Since we are now depending on the government to buy our beds, we can’t really refuse any recommendations from the ministry,” This is how the government is controlling actors in the private sector – by offering businessmen easy business opportunities following which such businessmen become dependant on government handouts, This situation is pervasive throughout the Maltese economy. How are Maltese companies going to compete on an international basis when they have become uncompetitive due to easy contracts with Big Government?

Francis Said
Francis Said
14 days ago

As is usual with this government, the taxpayer with the help of the independent and serious media, is constantly denied information on backroom deals.
This unfortunately makes one suspect that corruption is institutionalised from those of high positions within government entities.
Government must understand that taxpayers’ funds are there to be administered with the highest level of competence and transparency.
Unfortunately the PL has been using the 4th floor of their HQ since we’ll before the 2013 election.
When this was underlined by the then deputy leader, he was asked to resign and not contest the election. He did not fair badly with this resignation as he is now the Speaker of the House, travelled the world and certainly does not follow the rules and professional ethics that go with his position. Many of his decisions leave much to be desired.
All this leads to the total collapse of true democracy in our Country.

Toni Borg
Toni Borg
14 days ago

If the Ministry had to release the documents, it would unleash a backlash higher and dirtier than the waves beating on the rocks at 40kms in hour!

They have too much filth to keep under cover!!!

ATIKA VELLA MANSOURI
ATIKA VELLA MANSOURI
13 days ago

From 6 millions To 49 millions ovousely No Documentation about the spending 💰🤑🌎 Welcome in “”” Our Public Funds My Public Funds …. Third World System 🤓 “””

makjavel
makjavel
13 days ago

No reciepts , all paid in cash supplied by the Finance Ministry.

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