REVEALED: Cospicua home for the elderly contract shows government’s, operator’s respective responsibilities

The home was shut down suddenly by the government and residents relocated.


The original June 2000 contract for the running of the government home for the elderly in Cospicua that the government suddenly shut down shows both parties bear a respective onus for the home’s latent defects and its maintenance.

The contract, obtained by The Shift, stipulates that the home’s maintenance and upkeep were the sole responsibility of the operator but lays accountability for latent defects and poor workmanship at the government’s doorstep.

The Shift sought the original contract for the operation and management of the home after it hit the headlines when residents were informed at the end of May that they were being relocated to other homes because theirs is in such a dilapidated state that it needs to be partially demolished and rebuilt.

Going by the contents of three separate reports from April and September 2021 and another from December 2022 tabled in Parliament recently by Active Ageing Minister Jo Etienne Abela, show most of the building’s crucial infrastructure – such as electricity, plumbing and concrete, as well as security elements, were found to be severely lacking in maintenance.

They have also shown how the building was chock full of latent defects, most notably in the grade of concrete used for its construction in the mid to late 1990s.

But with a blame game erupting and with the issue becoming politicised while the future of the care home’s 120-plus residents hangs in the balance, The Shift sought to establish the facts by tracking down the original contract.

That contract was signed on 22 June 2000 and was signed between Healthcare Services Ltd – a Vassallo Group company that was later renamed to CareMalta – and the government. The contract has been automatically renewed on an annual basis since then.

When it comes to the building’s widely-reported maintenance problems, as well as the electricity and plumbing issues, the contract states:

“It [HS Ltd] shall be responsible ‘inter alia’ for the day-to-day maintenance of all stone and cement work, for the day-to-day redecoration of all metal and woodwork, for the maintenance of electrical, water and drainage systems, for the maintenance of refrigerators and ancillary equipment and to follow the manufacturers’ recommendations in their use and servicing.”

An extract from the Cospicua home for the elderly’s contract.

CareMalta insists it was ‘fully compliant with all of its obligations’

When contacted, a CareMalta spokesperson refuted the suggestion that the company failed to comply with any of its contractual maintenance obligations and insisted that “regular preventive maintenance and reparatory works have been conducted within the premises without fail during the years of operation”.

The company said this was “well-documented and well-known to the authorities”.

“The company cannot and should not be held responsible for any bad workmanship and latent defects during the construction of the premises – a principle which is also contractually established and accepted by the contracting parties.”

The issue is clearly something of a balancing act on the part of both the government and the company, given that the Cospicua home is not the only home in which the two are mutually involved.

CareMalta also stressed that there had never been a claim of any breach of contract, nor had any sort of default notice been submitted alleging or claiming that the company had defaulted on its maintenance obligations.

The only notice received, CareMalta said, was an extension of the contract, “thus and thereby, factually displaying that the company was fully compliant with all of its obligations throughout the period it was contracted for”.

It also insisted that, without disclosing commercially sensitive matters, it has “served notice onto its contractual counterpart, wheresoever any structural or maintenance outside the scope of the contract was required”.

It added that this had been the case “on certain occasions” and that such notices were followed up with the appropriate works.

Mould found ‘in most of the rooms’

While the company is insisting the issues at the home are down to “bad workmanship and latent defects” and that maintenance and reparatory works were “conducted without fail”, reports by experts called in to assess the building suggest otherwise.

The contract stipulates, “HS Ltd shall keep The Home in a hygienic and clean state”.

But a report drawn up by the Social Care Standards Authority following an inspection just last December found, “It could be observed that the care home is very shabby and requires a complete refurbishment.”

This, according to inspectors, included plastering, soffit ceilings and mould that had been found “in most of the rooms” and “in many different locations”.

In one resident’s room, inspectors found “water seeping from the ceiling that could lead to dangerous incidents and is a health and safety hazard.”

The report adds, “The SCSA officers observed that the floor was sticky, dusty and overall cleaning of the care home was not of an optimum level”.

They also observed in several rooms on different levels that “bathrooms require refurbishment or replacement of cracked [tiles] to avoid infection spread and health and safety concerns”.

Other infractions found included “grime between floor tiles that require a thorough deep cleaning”, wheelchairs needing clean-ups, ceiling lights not in conformity with Social Regulatory Standards, and the “general cleanliness of the floors and ambience is lacking.”

The contract also stipulates, “HS Ltd undertakes to maintain The Home in the state it was in on the initial takeover date, save normal wear and tear and save any defects as a result of bad workmanship and faults in design; and moreover undertakes to carry out regular internal and external maintenance work at its own expense…”

According to two scathing reports following inspections in 2021 by Social Projects Management Limited, the home was suffering from what appears to be a chronic lack of maintenance.

The state of the building’s concrete has also been well-documented.

At one point, Terracore Ltd was called in to take core samples to determine the concrete’s strength.

It found that the concrete on two balconies sampled “was so weak that it did not even withstand the coring operation and as such, testing could not even be carried out”.

Where testing had been carried out, the concrete was far below standard, so much so that the consultants remarked, “This is not acceptable.”

Jo Etienne Abela, who was made minister for the elderly in April 2022 after being elected for the first time, has insisted the building needs to be partially demolished and rebuilt to rectify matters.

With the contract seemingly open to interpretation by both parties, the minister has said that a new contract for the home’s operation will clearly identify each party’s specific responsibilities.

Plans for the project, which will entail a partial demolition and rebuild of the home, have been submitted to the Planning Authority by the government for approval.

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2 months ago

None of these “responsible” people will ever get jail unfortunately, and as it crosses over two administrations that are diametrically opposed to telling the truth and allocating responsibility it’s all going to get buried. The developers of course are the big winners yet again and the losers of course are all those in the various homes now who raised these motherfuckers, who now couldn’t give a proverbial fuck about them. We need an exceptionally large prison to be built to house these political and development scumbags who should really be crucified and displayed on Crucifix Hill in Floriana for all to see before they start their long sentences, Just saying.

Charles Vassallo
Charles Vassallo
2 months ago

Hold the culprits for such shoddy work and maintenance fully responsible and make sure they rebuild such home in a timely manner. Enough is enough!

nathan martin
nathan martin
2 months ago

Let’s guess what the future holds. No 1 will be held accountable, the site will be sold to Joseph Portelli or 1 of his associates who will build a monstrosity of a skyscraper all in the name of progress not greed.

1 month ago

Successive administrations have done all they could, with the help of parasitic developers to turn our Malta into a cess pit.

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