The Active Ageing Ministry has handed out another €13 million in direct orders over the first six months of this year to buy more beds for the elderly from the private sector.
Among the latest list of direct orders is a €775,000 contract for CareMalta Ltd, a Vassallo Group company, for the “provision of support services to Bormla Home for older persons” for the three-month period between April and June.
The ministry and CareMalta were at loggerheads at the end of last May, right in the middle of the direct order’s duration, over the home’s state of repair and maintenance, as well as faulty concrete found to have been used in its construction.
The home’s disgruntled residents were transferred to other homes and the building is to now be partially demolished and rebuilt.
According to the latest list of direct orders, the ministry continued to circumvent the competitive public procurement process to purchase new beds for the elderly in private homes.
Instead of issuing a tender with standardised national requirements, the ministry, through a department headed by Renzo De Gabriele, continued to deal with the private owners of homes on a one-to-one basis to purchase bed spaces for those on the government’s waiting list.
All the homes, private and government, are known to be full or very nearly full to capacity.
Although this type of procurement has already been heavily criticised by the National Audit Office, the ministry persists in the practice and, claiming commercial sensitivity, steadfastly refuses to publish the contracts.
According to the latest direct orders, the Imperial Residential Home in Sliema received the fattest direct order, of over €5 million, for an additional 40 beds over the next three and a half years.
49 additional beds were ‘leased’ from Dar l-Annunzjata in Tarxien for €3.5 million until February 2026 while the Archbishop’s Curia was awarded €1.5 million in direct orders to provide beds at Dar Saura and Casa Leone.
Another 34 beds were leased from Casa Pinto in Qormi for almost €800,000 for 18 months while CareMalta was awarded a new contract worth almost €400,000 for an additional 10 beds across various homes.
While the elderly in state care continue to pay the same proportion of their pensions for their care, the government negotiates different rates with different providers in an ad hoc and opaque process that is kept under wraps.
Sources in the highly-profitable elderly residential care industry, which is practically dominated by the government as the private sector’s biggest client, have observed with The Shift how the current system is wide open for abuse and graft – with no rules being in place and everything depending on the government officials who negotiate the individual contracts.
Neither is there any national policy on how many beds the government needs yearly, in which areas they are needed or how much they should cost. Instead, the area of operations is being administered in a piecemeal fashion and with day-to-day management by crisis.
According to the latest budget estimates, the government will be spending almost €50 million on beds in private homes for the elderly, most of which are owned by property development contractors.