‘Inadequate planning’ at Active Ageing Ministry with ‘frequent’ direct contracts

The Active Ageing Ministry’s Community Care Department (AACC) was found to have various “irregularities” in its procurement processes, “hindering fair competition” by repeatedly engaging and renewing contracts without tendering processes.

In an audit of the AACC’s expenditure throughout 2022, the National Audit Office found that the department was not administering its circa €17 million budget effectively, with “inadequate planning” leading to a lack of “good governance,” additionally “exposing the government to potential litigation.”

A report published by the Auditor General’s office last week investigated the department’s procurement processes and governance. The audit office noted “significant delays in the receipt of replies to audit queries,” with certain documentation “not made available” to the office.

The AACC is currently led by CEO Renzo DeGabriel and falls under the remit of Active Ageing Minister Jo Etienne Abela.

In its report, which sampled 7% of the AACC’s €16.8 million budget for 2022, the audit office found that the department made “frequent use of negotiated procedures” and “retrospective approvals” when procuring services.

Negotiated procedures see the contracting authority, in this case, the AACC, awarding contracts to service providers without prior publications or calls for tender. Additionally, the audit office found that contracts with service providers “continued to be extended when the term expired.”

The practice, which the NAO found in some circumstances to be “due to inadequate planning,” “hinders competition” and “does not reflect good governance.”

The contracts sampled by the NAO included those for cleaning, nursing, clerical, domiciliary, and security services and the AACC’s Meals for Homes service.

In contracting providers for its Meals for Homes service, the AACC, with the approval of the Department of Contracts, effectively extended a 2012 contract until 2023, amounting to some €5 million spent without a proper tendering process in place.

Once a call for tenders was finally issued this year, the new €2.4 million, three-year contract was awarded to the same service provider.

In its audit, the office found that the AACC lacked standard operating procedures for its procurement processes. Additionally, the department could not provide evidence that it was verifying invoices received from service providers before payment.

This year’s National Audit Office report has exposed a number of government agencies with irregular and problematic procurement processes. The Shift has reported how the office found the Gozo Ministry “habitually” abused direct orders, how the Building and Construction Authority lacked basic contracts for services procured, and how bids for a multi-million Euro Transport Malta tender were reviewed in a single day.


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2 months ago

Is this dep in a mess then? An other to match the others?

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