Gozo home set to open in 2024 will return to the Church in 7 years after taxpayers fork out millions

The government will be throwing away more than €30 million in public investment in a home for the elderly in Għajnsielem due to a flawed contract signed ten years ago.

Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri toured Dar San Gużepp in Għajnsielem, promising, for the umpteenth time, that the home for the elderly will open its doors, now slated for March 2024.

Yet all this investment will be lost if the minister does not amend “the unusual lease contract signed with the Gozo Diocese by his predecessor,” sources have told The Shift.

Following a call for tenders in 2020 and a lengthy legal battle in which the court decided the government’s evaluation committee had awarded the tender to the wrong bidder, the government has now signed a seven-year contract for the completion of works at the home and the management of the 120-bed facility until 2031.

This contract will cost taxpayers an additional €30 million over the next seven years, over and above the millions already spent on extending the former youth centre owned by the Church. The premises have been left abandoned in shell form since 2015.

After all this investment, taxpayers will end up with limited returns. In 2031, according to a hidden deal the government signed with the Church in 2013, the fully refurbished home must be returned to the Gozo Diocese.

A monument to the waste of public funds

The home is the first public residence in Gozo, as the Church or the private sector run all other similar facilities. The story behind the deal dates back to a few weeks after the Labour Party took power in 2013.

Through a private agreement, which the government never published, then-Minister Anton Refalo signed a deal with Gozo Bishop Mario Grech, now Cardinal, so that an abandoned youth centre in Għajnsielem would be leased to the government to turn it into a residential home for the elderly.

The lease agreement covered only 15 years, for a payment of some €100,000 a year in rent to the Church on top of all refurbishment costs.

The government even agreed to hand back the leased property, with all the improvements financed by the State, to the Church at the end of the lease period.

Since the government has not done much with the property except for extending the building, the lease is nearing its end, and the government has not yet started using the new facility.

In a report issued a few years ago, the NAO confirmed the deal was flawed and criticised the agreement, saying it resulted in a win only for the Gozo Diocese.

It seems the government is trying to extend its lease with the Church for another 20 years to benefit from the massive investment in the leased property.

Yet the Gozo Diocese is still resisting, sending messages to the government that it will only decide when the current 15-year lease ends.

Since 2013, the project has been handled by three different Gozo ministers: Anton Refalo, Justyne Caruana and Clint Camilleri.

The tender for the completion of the project was only issued in 2020, a full eight years after the agreement was signed.

During that time, the government paid additional millions to private businessmen and the Church to lease beds for the elderly in various private homes in Gozo.

Despite care for the elderly falling under the remit of Active Aging Minister Jo Etienne Abela, also a Gozitan, this does not apply in Gozo. His rival is managing the project in Għajnsielem, Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri.

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20 days ago

Let’s face it, the church is (and always has been) a bigger crook than the politicians.

20 days ago
Reply to  wenzu

Int kont taghti propjera tieghek lill gvern b xejn jaqaw?

20 days ago
Reply to  wenzu

Kieku l-gvern ma nefaqx il flus fuq il Vitals u investihom mill ewwel f din id dar, ilhom igawduha l Ghawdxin. Il-Gvern il- problema mhux il-Knisja!

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