The hospital’s concrete

concrete sampling

 

The issue came to the fore last September when Minister Konrad Mizzi said that there were problems with constructing additional wards on the Emergency Department of Mater Dei Hospital.  The contractor whose tender had been selected proceeded to carry out the necessary tests to ascertain that the existing buildings had the specified load-bearing properties. It was found that they did not.

All hell broke loose. Questions were asked as to how this was possible. Only one person kept his cool, former Finance Minister Tonio Fenech who, in September ,  declared  that he was not at all surprised by what was being said. He added that he was aware that Skanska, the contractor in charge of the hospital construction project, had repeatedly refused to construct additional floors because (it maintained)  the structure was not designed to carry such additional loads.

How come that only former Minister Tonio Fenech seems to have been aware of the design limitations of the hospital’s concrete?

On the other hand, whilst an inquiry is under way, Minister Konrad Mizzi is unethically disseminating selective titbits of information in order to make heavily loaded political statements.

Arup Group, a UK engineering firm, was commissioned by the government to analyse  the concrete used in the hospital’s structure. The report, which has already been submitted to the government and parts of which are being selectively quoted by Minster Konrad Mizzi, has not yet been published.

Likewise, the government is selectively quoting a waiver agreement between the Foundation for Medical Services and Skanska, signed on the conclusion of the project, presumably putting in writing what had been  agreed when addressing the final list of pending issues between the parties. The quotes being made lead to the conclusion that the waiver agreement was a blanket waiver. In fact, Minister Konrad Mizzi is actively encouraging such a conclusion. A full disclosure of the agreement would make it possible to consider whether the selective quotes are misleading –  as they most probably are.

Contrary to the manner in which the public debate has so far developed, the issue of the hospital concrete is primarily one of quality control on site, that is whether adequate quality control existed on site throughout the duration of the project. Such quality control requires that all concrete used on the Mater Dei project should have been sampled on use and tested according to established standards. Generally speaking, 28  days after use the project management team would have been in possession of the laboratory results on the concrete’s strength.

The questions which logically arise are whether the project managers had results indicating that the concrete supplied was not compatible with the relative specifications and, if such results did in fact materialise,  the manner in which they reacted to them.

The answers to these questions will point to the technical responsibilities arising both professionally and managerially.

Are there political responsibilities? I do not know. However,  the question of political responsibilities could arise if the politicians in charge interfered (directly or indirectly) in the technical decision taking. Political responsibilities  could also arise if the politicians obstructed the Foundation for Medical Services in the performance  of its duties by, for example, withholding funds or by dishing out appointments to persons who were not fit for purpose.

These are undoubtedly issues which the inquiry led by Mr Justice (retired) Philip Sciberras will examine, hopefully in some detail.

The sooner this whole saga comes to an end, the better. It is about time that everybody’s mind is at rest. This includes the taxpayer, who is not yet certain whether he will end up footing the bill.

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday, 31 May 2015

Il-konkos f’Mater Dei: min kellu idu fil-borma?

 pouring of concrete

Fil-konferenza stampa ta’ Konrad Mizzi u Chris Fearne intqal li l-konkos dgħajjef f’Mater Dei twassal fuq is-sit fl-ewwel sitt xhur tal-1996.

Lawrence Gonzi, dal-għodu qalilna li l-ftehim [dwar il-waiver] bejn il-Fondazzjoni għas-Servizzi Mediċi (FMS) u Skanska qatt ma tela’ l-Kabinett għall-approvazzjoni. Dan minnu innifsu jnissel ħafna iktar mistoqsijiet dwar x’ġara fil-fatt u dwar min realment kellu idu fil-borma.

Imma l-gazzetti jidher li m’humiex jagħtu piż biżżejjed lil biċċa informazzjoni oħra li sirna nafu biha f’Settembru li għadda. Dakinnhar meta ħarġet l-aħbar li l-konkos kien dgħajjef u l-bini għaldaqstant ma jiflaħx piż addizzjonali, Tonio Fenech kien qal li xejn ma kien sorpriż. Kien żied jgħid li kien għalhekk li Skanska kienu irrifjutaw li jżidu l-għoli tal-bini.

Dan kollu jfisser li hemm min ilu ħafna jaf li l-kwalità tal-konkos użata f’Mater Dei kienet inferjuri minn dak ippjanat. Probabbilment ħafna qabel ma ġie iffirmat il-ftehim li skandalizza lil kulħadd.

Il-mistoqsijiet li jeħtieġu tweġiba huma bosta. Liema kienu l-idejn iħawwdu fil-borma tal-konkos ta’ Mater Dei? Kemm kienet ilha magħrufa din l-informazzjoni? X’kienu d-deċiżjonijiet dakinnhar li kienet magħrufa din l-informazzjoni?

Qabel ma jkun hemm tweġiba għal dawn il-mistoqsijiet ser ikun diffiċli ħafna li nifhmu kemm x’ġara kif ukoll min hu responsabbli.

 

Il-konkos ta’ Mater Dei

mater_dei

Dak li qed jintqal dwar il-konkos ta’ Mater Dei hu gravi ħafna.

Mhux biss għax mir-riżultati tekniċi qed jirriżulta illi l-konkos użat kien wieħed inferjuri. Imma fuq kollox għax qed jingħata l-messaġġ ċar li l-kontrolli interni li kien hemm f’sit ta’ kostruzzjoni tal-kobor tal-isptar Mater Dei, ma ħadmux.

Qed jingħata messaġġ ieħor gravi ħafna: li hemm irregolarità kbira li seta kien hemm min kien jaf biha u ipprova jostora.

Għax meta jinġieb il-konkos fuq sit ta’ dan il-kobor jittieħed kampjun li wara jintbagħat fil-laboratorju biex tiġi ivverifikat is-saħħa tiegħu. Wara 28 ġurnata suppost li l-managment tas-sit kien konxju tar-riżultati dwar is-saħħa tal-konkos. Għax inkella x’jiswa’ l-biżibilju periti u tekniċi oħra li kienu impjegati biex jagħtu servizz fuq is-sit u li tħallsu flejjes tajba għal snin kbar biex propju jagħmlu l-kontrolli u l-verifiki neċessarji?

Il-mistoqsijiet ewlenin li għalija jeħtieġu tweġiba huma:

  1. saru t-testijiet tal-konkos?
  2. min irċieva r-riżultati mill-laboratorju dwar dawn it-testijiet?
  3. x’ħareġ minn dawn ir-riżultati ?
  4. x’passi ittieħdu wara li ġew eżaminati r-riżultati dwar is-saħħa tal-konkos?

Qed nistenna l-konklużjonijiet tal-inkjesta immexxija mill-Imħallef Philip Sciberras li nittama li fosthom insib risposta għal dawn il-mistoqsijiet bażiċi.

Huwa wara li jkollna dawn it-tweġibiet li nistgħu nikkunsdraw xi ftehim sar bejn l-FMS [Foundation for Medical Services] u l-kumpanija Skanska.  Iżda jkun tajjeb li qabel ma nikkummentaw dwar dan il-ftehim inkunu nafu l-kliem eżatt tiegħu għax dan jista’ jagħmel differenza kbira.

Sadanittant ikun għaqli li jieqfu l-ispekulazzjonijiet għax dawn m’huma ser isolvu xejn. Meta l-fatti jkunu magħrufa jkun stabilit ukoll min ikkontribwixxa biex seħħew dawn il-fatti. Imbagħad ikun possibli li kull min kellu responsabbiltà jerfa’ dak li jmissu.

Nittama biss li ma jiġrix bħas-soltu u jintefa l-piż fuq iż-żgħir.

Fuq dan il-blog dwar l-istess suġġett ara:

Skanska u Tonio Fenech dwar il-konkos f’Mater Dei.

Mater Dei: Ir-responsabbiltà ta’ Tonio Fenech hi li tingħata spjegazzjoni.

 

Mater Dei : ir-responsabbiltà ta’ Tonio Fenech hi li tingħata spjegazzjoni

Mater Dei 5

Il-Prim Ministru sewwa qal li r-responsabbiltajiet politiċi dwar Mater Dei jistgħu jistennew.

L-importanza hi li jkun stabilit immedjatament dak li fil-fatt ġara u r-responsabbiltajiet ċivili u kriminali għal dan.

Il-Gvern qed jgħid li l-kwalita’ tal-konkos mhux biss ma tiflaħx biex jinbnew żewġ sulari oħra fuq il-blokk tal-emerġenza, imma li l-konkos hu ta’ kwalita’ tant inferjuri li jitfarrak f’idejk. F’xi gazzetti il-bieraħ il-Ħadd intqal li l-konkos tal-bankini hu ta’ kwalita’ ħafna aħjar minn dak li dwaru saru it-testijiet reċentement.

Min-naħa l-oħra Tonio Fenech qiegħed jgħid li :

“The structures were never designed to carry such loads and Skanska had refused to build beyond two additional floors for safety reasons”.

Issa dan li qed jgħid Tonio Fenech ma jispjegax kollox, imma jirrikonoxxi li l-problema qegħda hemm u li l-politiċi fil-Gvern qabel Marzu 2013 kienu jafu biha.

Tant kienu jafu biha li t-Times stess 4 snin ilu irrappurtat li :

“ ……..government was forced to accept the helipad as it is because the roof of the emergency department had not been reinforced during construction.”

Huwa ċar li l-Gvern li kellna qabel Marzu 2013 jaf iżjed dwar il-każ milli intqal s’issa fil-pubbliku u hemm l-obbligu li dan ikun spjegat pubblikament malajr kemm jista’ jkun.

Minn kif tkellem Tonio Fenech huwa ċar li l-issue ġja ġiet diskussa bejn il-Gvern (pre-2013) u l-kuntratturi. Jidher ukoll li l-Gvern (pre-2013) irrassenja ruħu għas-sitwazzjoni li rriżultat.

Il-mistoqsija hi għaliex? X’ġara eżattament? Meta Skanska qed tigi ikkwotata minn Tonio Fenech li ma rieditx tibni iktar minn żewġ sulari jfisser lir-responsabbilta’ ma kienitx tagħha u tal-kuntratturi. Ta’ min kienet allura?

Tonio Fenech u oħrajn bla dubju għandhom it-tweġibiet għal dan kollu. L-ewwel responsabbilta’ politika li għandhom hi li jagħtu spejgazzjoni.

Skond dak li ser jirriżulta imbagħad wieħed ikun jista’ jikkonkludi x’responsabbiltajiet addizzjonali hemm u min għandu jġorrhom.

Skanska u Tonio Fenech dwar il-konkos f’Mater Dei

Mater Dei.under construction

Fi stqarrijiet diversi li saru mill-Ministru Konrad Mizzi u s-Segretarju Parlamentari Chris Fearne konna infurmati bid-dettalji dwar li l-konkos użat f’Mater Dei ġol-blokk  li fih it-taqsima tal-Emergenza. Ġejna infurmati li l-konkos hu dgħajjef b’mod li ma jiflaħx illi jerfa’ l-piz ta’ iktar kostruzzjoni.

Bħala riżultat ta’ din l-informazzjoni kellna lil min stagħġeb, kif ukoll kellna lil min ma stagħġibx.  Dan tal-aħħar, l-ex-Ministru Tonio Fenech kien ikkwotat li qal li ma kienx sorpriż b’din l-aħbar.

It-Times ta’ Malta fil-fatt tikkwota lil Tonio Fenech hekk: “The structures were never designed to carry such loads and Skanska had refused to build beyond two additional floors for safety reasons”.

Ikun interessanti ħafna kieku Tonio Fenech jispjega “ftit” iktar x’irid jgħid b’dan il-kumment.

Għax jekk Skanska irrifjutaw li jibnu iktar minn żewġ sulari għal raġinijiet ta’ sigurta’ probabbilment li f’xi żmien kienu mitluba jew ġew  ippressati dwar dan u Skanska kellhom jiġġustifikaw il-għala kienu qed jirrifjutaw. Nifhem li Skanska jkunu ippreżentaw raġunijiet dettaljati għalfejn kienu qed jinsistu li ma setgħux jibnu iktar fuq il-blokk tal-Emerġenza. Possibilment li dan huwa wkoll dokumentat b’xi mod f’xi rapport jew xi minuti ta’ xi laqgħa.

Il-kumment ta’ Tonio Fenech hu ċar ħafna. Jgħid li (skond Skanska) l-bini qatt ma kien iddiżinjat biex jiflaħ iktar minn żewġ sulari u li allura jekk dan jitgħabba b’iktar milli hu ddiżinjat biex jerfa’ jkun hemm problemi ta’ “safety”.

Dan ifisser li probabbilment  x’imkien hemm xi dokument li jispjega l-posizzjoni ta’ Skanska liema dokument, meta jinstab x’aktarx li jwieġeb il-parti l-kbira tal-mistoqsijiet li għandu quddiemu l-Imħallef (irtirat) Philip Sciberras.

Issa jekk il-posizzjoni hi kif qed jgħid Tonio Fenech għaliex donnu ħadd ma kien jaf biha? Xi ħadd donnu li m’għamilx il-homework sewwa qabel ma fesfes f’widnejn Konrad Mizzi u Chris Fearne. Ikun interessanti ħafna kif dan il-punt bażiku li qed jagħmel Tonio Fenech ser jiġi indirizzat mill-inkjesta immexxija mill- Imħallef (irtirat) Philip Sciberras.

L-aħħar ħaga: għadni ma fhimtx kif il-ġurnaliżmu investigattiv kollu li għandna madwarna, minn dan kollu jidher li ma xammew xejn. Dak li qal Tonio Fenech, jekk veru, għandu jpoġġi l-argumenti kollha dwar l-inkjesta rashom l-isfel!

Ministru hands-on !

mater_dei

L-Ministru tas-Saħħa t-Tabib Godfrey Farrugia għandu uffiċċju fl-Isptar Mater Dei, ħdejn l-emergenza. Iħoss il-ħtieġa li jkun hemm viċin biex ikun jista’ jevalwa l-problemi.

X’inhu xogħol il-Minstru?  It-Tabib Farrugia jidher li jaħseb li xogħolu hu ta’ Manager li mexxi “day to day”. Mhux l-ewwel wieħed li ħasibha hekk. F’pajjiż żgħir bħal tagħna nifhem li l-politku, billi ħafna drabi bhu f’kuntatt dirett man-nies iħoss l-obbligu “politiku” li jintervjeni b’mod li jidher biex ikun jista’ jagħti sodisfazzjon immedjat lill-votant.

Imma allura x’inhi l-funzjoni tal-Management tal-isptar? Għax jekk il-Ministru jħoss il-ħtieġa li jkun viċin il-problema l-konklużjoni loġika hi li l-management jew qiegħed hemm għal xejn inkella mhux jagħmel xogħolu kif meħtieġ! Jiġifieri iktar minn kamra għall-Ministru hemm bżonn li kulħadd jerfa’ r-responsabbiltajiet tiegħu.

Ir-rwol tal-Ministru m’hiex ta’ sehem dirett fit-tmexxija tad-Dipartimenti li għalihom hu responsabbli. L-anqas ma hi sorveljanza diretta tal-ħidmiet diversi fil-Ministeru tiegħu. Hi li jagħti direzzjoni politika u li joħloq l-istrutturi neċessarji biex ikun possibli li l-politika tal-Gvern tal-ġurnata titwettaq.

M’għandix dubju mill-intenzjonijiet tajba tal-Ministru Godfrey Farrugia. Imma anke Austin Gatt kien Ministru hands-on! ir-riżultati ta’ Gatt nafu bihom ilkoll.

Voting at the Hospitals and Retirement Homes: (1) Introduction

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On Monday morning together with Professor Arnold Cassola on behalf of Alternattiva Demokratika I had a meeting with the Chief Electoral Commissioner who was accompanied by the Commission’s Secretary. The point at issue were recent amendments to the General Elections Act (through Act XIV of 2012) which set out the framework for the running of general elections in retirement homes and Hospitals.

Retirement homes to which the amendments apply must have at least fifty resident voters and must be run by the state. This means that only one retirement home, St Vincent de Paul  Residence, is targeted. Ther retirement homes which though owned by the state are run by the private sector (Zejtun and Mellieħa homes) are excluded.

Likewise when it comes to the hospitals it will be the state hospitals which will be subject to the recent amendments. These are four in number, namely Mater Dei Hospital, Karen Grech Hospital, Mount Carmel Hospital and the Gozo General Hospital.

Twenty four hours after the publication of the writ establishing the date of the general elections the Electoral Commission shall form a sub-committee which shall be chaired by a Commissioner together with a representative of each of the political parties. Alternattiva Demokratika shall participate in this sub-committee and I shall be its representative.

In terms of these latest amendments to the General Elections Act the Electoral Commission shall delegate to the above-mentioned sub-committee the running of the general election  in retirement homes and hospitals.

to be continued : tomorrow (2) The draconian powers of the sub-committee

Sqaq San Filep

 

Wara żmien twil bi ftit li xejn informazzjoni dwar l-isptar ta’ San Filep, matul din il-ġimgħa kellna indiġistjoni.  L-informazzjoni iżda ħarġet bit-tabuxù għax il-Gvern jagħtiha biċċa biċċa. Kif u meta jaqbillu. Qatt biex jinforma.

Is-serjeta’ kienet titlob mod ieħor. Imma s-serjeta’ m’hiex kwalita’ tal-Gvern immexxi minn Lawrence Gonzi.

Kif anke deher waqt id-dibattitu ta’ nhar it-Tnejn li għadda fil-Parlament hemm ħafna affarijiet li m’humiex ċari u għaldaqstant huwa meħtieġ analiżi twila u dettaljata tal-konsiderazzjonijiet kollha li wasslu għall-ftehim bejn il-Gvern u l-kumpanija ta’ Frank Portelli l-Good Shepherd Group Limited, is-sid tal-isptar.

L-ewwel ħsieb imur fuq is-sit innifsu. Għaliex l-Isptar San Filep?

It-tweġiba m’hiex waħda sempliċi. Id-diskussjonijiet kienu ilhom sejrin minn ftit wara l-elezzjoni tal-2008. Ħadd ma qal xejn għal żmien twil. Dak li kien qed jiġri rriżulta minn sentenza mogħtija mit-Tribunal għat-Talbiet Żgħar nhar l-4 t’Ottubru 2012 fil-każ bejn Icon Studios Ltd u Good Shepherd Group Limited. Fil-paragrafu 7 tal-konsiderazzjonijiet tat-Tribunal jingħad li Dr Frank Portelli nhar l-1 ta’ Marzu 2010 semma n-negozjati li huwa kellu mal-Gvern u li kienu ilhom għaddejjin għal 18-il xahar. Il-każ quddiem it-Tribunal kien dwar ħlas konness mad-disinn ta’ website tal-Isptar San Filep mill-kumpanija ta’ Dr Ġeġe Gatt, iben Austin Gatt.

Issa 18-il xahar qabel l-1 ta’ Marzu 2010 jfisser Settembru 2008!  Dan ifisser li n-negozjati ilhom sejrin 4 snin. Bdew ftit wara l-elezzjoni ġenerali tal-2008.

In-negozjaturi ghan-nom tal-Gvern kellhom jikkunsidraw jekk il-pjanijiet tal-Gvern għal sptar ta’ Riabilitazzjoni ta’ madwar 280 sodda setgħux jitwettqu f’dan is-sit ta’ 75 kamra b’110 sodda. Il-ħtieġa li l-kapaċita tal-Isptar tiżdied għal iktar minn darbtejn u nofs tista’ tikkunsidraha billi l-ewwel tħares lejn il-potenzjal tas-sit u wara tara mal-MEPA jekk din il-possibilita tistax titwettaq.

Meta tkellem fil-Parlament il-Ministru Tonio Fenech ma ta’ l-ebda assigurazzjoni dwar jekk il-MEPA tistax toħroġ permess ta’ din ix-xorta. Għamel sewwa, għax jiena naħseb li hu diffiċli ħafna għall-MEPA li toħroġ permess bħal dan. L-issue tal-parking diġa issemmiet fil-Parlament mill-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni: li żżid il-parking b’iżjed mid-doppju m’huwiex faċli f’sit li hu ristrett. Ma dan trid taħseb biex iżżid il-faċilitajiet kollha biex il-kapaċita’ tagħhom tkun addattata għad-daqs ġdid tal-isptar. Jiena naħseb li dan ser ikun diffiċli ħafna. Naħseb li l-anqas jekk l-isptar jitwaqqa’ u jsir disinn mill-ġdid ma jista’ jinħoloq disinn aċċettabbli minħabba li is-sit hu wieħed ristrett!

Meta tqabbel din id-diffikulta’ mal-flessibilita’ sostanzjali li joffri l-Isptar San Luqa, t-team tan-negozjaturi u l-konsultenti tagħhom mill-Fondazzjoni għas-Servizzi Mediċi għandhom ħafna x’jisjegaw. Għax jekk diġa jidher ċar x’diffikultajiet hemm għalfejn tibda l-mixja f‘dak l-isqaq ?  Sqaq li fi żmien tlett snin jista’ jfisser li l-proċess ikollu jerġa’ jibda mill-ġdid b’ħela ta’ ħafna żmien u fondi pubbliċi.

It-tieni punt li rrid nagħmel hu dwar il-fatt li meta l-Gvern għażel li jikkonsidra l-Isptar San Filep immedjatament eskluda l-alternattivi l-oħra kollha li seta kien hemm.

Eskluda l-iSptar San Luqa li dwaru jidher li sar studju dettaljat, skond ma qal il-Ministru Cassar. Dan l-studju identifika li għall-isptar kollu l-ispiża ta’ refurbishment kienet ser tigi tiswa’ ftit inqas minn €40 miljun. Issa biex jinħoloq Sptar ta’ Riabilitazzjoni ta’ 280 sodda m’hemmx bżonn tal-Isptar San Luqa kollu iżda biss parti minnu. Meta tqis id-dewmien ta’ 4 snin negozjati mill-2008 lil hawn (u min jaf kemm ser indumu iktar) hu ċar li kieku ittieħdet id-deċiżjoni favur l-Isptar San Luqa mill-ewwel fl-2008, l-isptar ta’ riabilitazzjoni ilu lest u jiffunzjona għal tlett snin. B’deċiżjoni bħal din favur l-iSptar San Luqa  l-pazjenti kieku ilhom li emigraw għal  faċilitajiet aħjar mill-kurituri tal-isptar Mater Dei.

Waqt id-dibattitu Parlamentari ta’ nhar it-Tnejn issemmiet ukoll il-possibilita li hemm sidien ta’ lukandi  li kienu interessati li jipproponu illi l-lukanda tagħhom tkun konvertita għall-użu ta’ sptar ta’ riabilitazzjoni. Jiena naħseb li proposta ta’ din ix-xorta toffri diffikultajiet daqs is-sit tal-isptar San Filep  kemm għall-parkeġġ kif ukoll biex tipprovdi l-faċilitajiet kollha meħtieġa. Pero’ qabel ma tara l-proposta u tkun konxju ta’ dak li qed ikun offrut ma tistax tifforma opinjoni definittiva.

Meta nqis kollox naħseb li l-unika proposta sura hi li jintuża l-Isptar San Luqa.

Il-problema ma  ħoloqiex Frank Portelli li iddiskuta ma min kien interessat li jixtri l-isptar tiegħu. Ħoloqha l-Gvern li mexa ħażin mingħajr ma qies sewwa u bir-reqqa l-ftit riżorsi li suppost qiegħed jamministra.

Fid-dawl ta’ dan kollu jagħmel sens li min ħa d-deċiżjonijiet jiġi mgħarbel sewwa qabel ma jkun iffirmat il-kuntratt.   Għalhekk hu meħtieġ li l-Parlament jiċċaqlaq.

published in Illum, Sunday 21st October 2012

A case of bad governance

The full process leading to the agreement whereby St Philip’s Hospital is leased to the Government with the option to purchase requires careful examination. Even after Monday’s parliamentary debate, the information is substantially under wraps with only small snippets having been made available to date. The little that is known however, already points towards bad governance.

The Government opted to start negotiations with the owner of St Philip’s Hospital late in 2008, that is four years ago. Commencing negotiations relative to St Philip’s Hospital signifies that alternative sites and options were being excluded: alternative sites were ignored, considered as not being suitable, or as being less suitable than the site under consideration.

The Minister for Health said in Parliament that it would require just under €40 million to rehabilitate St Luke’s Hospital. What the minister forgot to consider was that a basic rule for comparative statements is that, for the comparison to be of any significance, one has to compare like with like. You cannot compare what is required for a 1,000 bed hospital to justify the relative smallness of the sum required relative to a 75-bed or a 110-bed hospital.

The cost to rehabilitate St Luke’s is obviously substantially higher than anything related to St Philip’s. Such comparisons are deceptive. Moreover, parts of St Luke’s are no longer available as they are being used for other purposes.

The potential use of St Luke’s was discarded when negotiations started way back in 2008. If St Luke’s was then considered as suitable, the Rehabilitation Hospital would be up and running by now, saving millions of euros and lots of time. It could have been operational at least three years ago. As a result, it would have been possible for medical personnel at Mater Dei Hospital to deal more appropriately with patients because overcrowding there would have been substantially reduced three years ago, at least.

This is one of the issues which the Auditor General should consider when he examines the process that led to the Government’s decision. I understand that detailed reports are existent. It would be appropriate if these are immediately made available for the consideration of the Public Accounts Committee and the Auditor General.

It should also be considered whether the Government acted correctly when it opted to initiate direct negotiations with one hospital operator to the exclusion of other suppliers of potentially suitable sites. The fact that the Government is not legally bound to issue a call for tenders does not signify that it is good practice to start the process without such a call or, alternatively, with a request for the submission of expressions of interest. The Government, instead, inversed the process linking itself with a call for an expression of interest issued by the owner of St Philip’s!

The tendering procedure is a basic characteristic of public sector procurement so much that even local councils are expected to issue such a call when leasing or purchasing property. Why is it that the Finance Ministry insists on good practice at a local level but then opts for bad practice at a national level? The reasons brought forward by the Government to justify direct negotiations are equally applicable at a local level, yet the ministries of finance and local government justifiably insist on the tendering procedure.

In view of the above, Franco Debono (actively supported by Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando) is insisting that the agreement reached should be shelved until such time that the Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Representatives have examined the whole process.

In view of the seriousness of the matter, that is the possible overriding by Parliament of the Executive’s discretion, the honourable way for the Leader of the House was to deal with the motion submitted by Debono with urgency. It should take precedence over all the Government’s business as it strikes at the most basic of uses.

When documentation is submitted for the Auditor General’s scrutiny there is one particular scrap of paper that I will look out for. This is the advice dished out by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority indicating the possibility to consider an application for the increase in beds at St Philip’s to about 280.

A quick visit to the site of St Philip’s would remove all doubts as to the suitability of the site because it is clear that there is hardly sufficient parking space for the hospital’s current size. The only remote possibility for increasing the facilities at St Philip’s in my view is to redevelop it completely, in which case, costings made have to be calculated afresh. And I have serious doubts whether this can be done.

As I see it, there is no way in which St Philip’s can function as projected. Public funds invested in this project would be monies down the drain. Hence the need for the intervention of the Public Accounts Committee and the Auditor General before the deal is concluded.

 

published in The Times of Malta, Saturday 20th October 2012

A step in the right direction

The presentation by maverick MP Franco Debono of a motion requesting that Parliament and the Auditor General should examine the proposal that government takes over St Philip’s Hospital is a step in the right direction.

The decision for government to take over the private hospital was taken after negotiations between auditing firms representing government and the hospital owners concluded terms for an eight year lease with the option to purchase. No call for tenders was issued. The hospital owner however issued a call for an expression of interest in the acquisition of the hospital.

There are various matters which the Auditor General should examine.

First: is the proposed takeover of St Philip’s Hospital value for money or is it a political gimmick on the eve of general elections?

Second : isn’t the proposal to take over St Philip’s Hosptal just a confirmation of bad planning involved in the development of Mater Dei Hospital which has resulted in its being too small for the country’s needs so soon after being finalised?  Who was responsible for the Mater Dei brief which has resulted in wards bursting at the seams and  hospital corridors being transformed into wards? Who will shoulder political responsibility for this failure?

Third: is it right for government to negotiate with those who are in breach of the Companies Act through non-submission of audited accounts for a number of years?

Four companies are involved in St Philip’s Hospital. All of them have not submitted audited accounts for a number of years as can be noted through the list of documents available online  at the Registry of Companies. The Golden Shepherd Group Ltd   (C 14948) has last submitted its audited accounts on July 15, 2008. Private Health Investment Ltd (C 24386) has last submitted its audited accounts on February 1, 2007. Medicaid Ltd (C 5283) has last submitted its audited accounts on September 14, 2007. Biomed Laboratory Ltd (C 14303) has last submitted its audited accounts on October 12, 2007.

The Golden Shepherd Group is owned by Frank Portelli, Private Health Investment Ltd and Medicaid Ltd.  Private Health Investment Ltd is owned by Medicaid Ltd and Biomed Laboratory Ltd.  Medicaid Ltd is owned by Frank Portelli whilst Biomed laboratory Ltd is owned by Frank Portelli and Medicaid Ltd.

I await the Auditor General’s conclusions!   I also look forward to Dr Frank Portelli’s comments on government’s health policy and its implementation.

first published on di-ve.com Friday 12 October 2012