Updated to include the General Workers’ Union reply
The General Workers’ Union is turning another profit from another government initiative, this time through the relocation of the Health Department’s Gender Wellbeing Clinic to Paola.
The Health Ministry last summer decided to relocate its gender clinic from its previous government-owned location in Mtarfa to a bigger and more central location.
But since it didn’t own the right property in the new location, it decided to rent one owned by the GWU at the A3 Towers in Paola.
How or why the GWU property was chosen or how much taxpayers are paying for it in rent is unknown since The Shift’s questions, including a Freedom of Information request, are being avoided.
Efforts made over the past months to establish how much the GWU is profiting from this initiative hit a brick wall, with government officials simply passing questions from one department to the next.
The Shift is informed that the lease of the property, which was not designed to serve as a health clinic, was made through direct order.
Asked to state how the location was selected and how much rent is being paid, a spokesperson for Health Minister Chris Fearne said the clinic has been “made available” by the Human Rights Directorate, a unit within the Home Affairs Ministry, which has already been using premises at the GWU building for some time.
But when asked for a copy of the contract with the Health Department, the director of the Human Rights Directorate, Michael Camilleri, refused to comply and passed the buck back to the Health Department.
He said in reply to a Freedom of Information request and contradicting the ministry’s statement: “With regards to the request for a copy of any contract on the use of the premises by the Health Department, you may wish to note that this request does not fall under HRD remit and should be addressed to the relevant authorities.”
Contract is ‘confidential’
Asked to make the contract available and to explain whether it followed a public call, Camilleri said the directorate could not supply the contract because it is “confidential”.
The Shift has filed a request for the decision to be reviewed.
The Human Rights Directorate is not the only government entity using GWU property in the high-rise building.
In 2014, a year after Labour was returned to power, Transport Malta moved its Land Transport Directorate to the GWU building, which was at the time unoccupied. The Authority still operates from the same premises.
In return, the GWU started receiving €500,000 a year for the lease of parts of the building. Transport Malta also finances other costs related to the building, including utilities and refurbishment.
At the same time, the GWU also transferred its private insurance business – Untours Insurance Agents, which also offers vehicle insurance – to the same building.
The GWU acquired four floors of the A3 Towers for €1.7 million in 2012 from JPM Brothers, owned by the Montebello brothers, the same owners of the former Jerma Palace Hotel in Marsascala. Plans they have with Gozitan construction magnate Joseph Portelli to turn the building into luxury apartments are in the pipeline.
In a reaction, the General Workers’ Union said it has nothing to do with the rental of the Gender Wellbeing Clinic. The union is renting the premises to the Human Rights Directorate which is, in turn, allowing the Gender Wellbeing Clinic to use a section of that premises.