Dar San Guzepp – a new residence for the elderly in Gozo – is finally set to open its doors in March as the Vassallo Group, the private contractor that last year won a €30 million tender to finish and run the home until 2031, managed to keep to its deadline and complete the long-delayed project.
Touring the almost completed premises, Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri boasted that “we have kept our word”, referring to the completion of the project by the private sector, making no mention of the fact the project was actually late by more than a decade.
Asked by The Shift to state how many millions were paid through public funds in rent to the Gozo Curia – the property owners – and on semi-finished construction works left abandoned since 2016 – the Gozo Ministry did not reply.
Industry sources calculate that the Gozo Ministry has ‘thrown away’ more than €3 million on this project since it was conceived in 2013.
A project of Gozo’s first Labour Minister Anton Refalo, the deal was signed in 2013, soon after Labour won the general elections.
It foresaw the Gozo Curia, at the time led by Bishop (now Cardinal) Mario Grech, leasing a derelict youth centre in Ghajnsielem to the government for 15 years.
In exchange for €100,000 a year, the government would convert the property into a residential home – the first such public facility on the island.
However, despite construction starting in 2015 and extensions being built onto the property, everything stopped a year later.
The extended building was left incomplete as public funds had dried up.
While the Gozo church continued to receive its €100,000 a year, nothing was done until last year, when a new tender was issued and won by the Vassallo Group to complete the home and open it by March 2024.
Meanwhile, eight out of the 15 years of the lease have been completely wasted, with the tender given to the private managers valid for only a few more years.
While the government has been trying to renegotiate a new lease agreement with the Gozo Curia, sources said it has not managed yet.
The Gozo Curia refuses to give any details on this deal.
Through this deal, signed in 2013 and described by the NAO as ‘flawed’, the Gozo Curia will have a right to reclaim the completed state-of-the-art facility, developed and fully equipped by public funds.
The home is expected to cater for 120 residents.