NAO confirms The Shift investigations on scandalous Gozo elderly home

Government has already wasted €1 million as nine-year saga drags on

 

The National Audit Office has confirmed findings revealed by The Shift on a series of scandals that have led to the squandering of hundreds of thousands of euros on a nine-year, still-incomplete project turning a Church-owned youth centre in Għajnsielem, into a residential facility for the elderly.

The NAO also confirmed The Shift’s stories that while the Gozo Curia has already cashed in over €1 million in rent, due to a secret deal signed with the Labour Government in 2013, it will also be in a position to take back the state-of-the-art facility, once completed and equipped, as the defective contract elapses in just six years’ time.

While both the government and the Gozo Curia kept the agreement – signed in May 2013 between then Gozo Minister Anton Refalo and Gozo Bishop (now Cardinal) Mario Grech – secret by repeatedly turning down Freedom of Information requests and Parliamentary Questions for the publishing of the contract, the NAO’s findings not only confirmed The Shift’s revelations but also shows the waste of funds was even much more than originally estimated.

The project – a brainchild of Labour’s first Gozo Minister Anton Refalo and Cardinal Grech – was signed barely two months after Labour was swept to power, in what many believe to have been a pre-electoral deal.

Refalo and Grech agreed that the Gozo Curia was to lease to the government an abandoned youth centre in Ghajnsielem to be turned, at the government’s expense, into a residential home for the elderly.

However, in what is now being considered by the NAO as the deal’s first in a series of blunders, the agreement stipulated that after 15 years, with the Curia receiving some €100,000 a year, the finished home, together with all its contents, including millions of euros in medical equipment, would be handed lock-stock-and-barrel to the Curia.

While works on the building started immediately, everything came to a halt after two years as government funding dried up and the site was left in shell form.

In 2017, when Refalo was ousted from the Gozo Ministry, the new minister, Justyne Caruana, ordered a revision of the designs, with a little more work done on the project but it was once again abandoned.

As the third Gozo Minster was installed in 2020, Clint Camilleri, who ordered a study on how the project should continue. It was decided that the half-built home should be finished, completed, and run for the remaining period of the contract by a private operator.

A €30 million tender was issued and was never concluded as two companies are now in court litigation over who should be assigned the lucrative tender following a Ministry blunder during the evaluation stage.

In the meantime, the project remains stalled, in shell form, while time is continuing to accumulate over the one-sided deal with the Gozo Curia, leaving just six years to go.

The NAO audit established that by 2028, the ‘home’, and the investment made, on taxpayers’ behalf, will return to the Gozo diocese which can then run ‘its’ new home as a private enterprise.

According to the NAO findings, as the government had no option but to show the secret deal to the audit office, an addendum to the contract was signed in 2016 for the possibility of an extension of the lease by a further 20 years.

However, the decision will have to be taken solely by the Gozo curia when the time arrives.

“In 2028, by the end of the lease of property, the property should return to the Gozo Diocese with a state-of-the-art residence equipped with 140 beds,” the NAO stated, confirming earlier revelations by The Shift.

Also, the NAO said that so far, “the Gozo Ministry incurred an expense of some €1 million as rent without any apparent benefits.

“It is evident that expenditure related to the rental of this residence will continue to escalate without any benefits in the near future. “In addition to this expenditure, the final cost of this project remains subject to the conclusion of the revelation of the tender bids.”

According to the NAO, the government was not able to state when will the residence, originally intended to open in 2014, is expected to start receiving its residents.

The Gozo Curia has never replied to questions by The Shift on its secret deal with the government.

                           
                           
                               
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Wenzu
Wenzu
1 month ago

One cock up after another. Modus operandi for this government

saviour mamo
saviour mamo
1 month ago

I have lost faith in what these two represent.

Carmelo Borg
1 month ago

Refalo bil BARKA tal cardinal qed jipprova jixtri post fil genna.

carlos
1 month ago

Is it possible that the Catholic Church in Mafiamalta was/is/will be involved with this corrupt muvument. Veru li m’hemmx tama ghal din il-blata.

Jac
Jac
1 month ago

Tax payers money !!!!

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