Pre-fabricated hospital scandal: First documents – Jason Azzopardi

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

I’m writing this on Saturday afternoon. Till now, I have not been contacted by the relevant authorities.

Let us take a closer look at this scandal.

Last Thursday, at “10 noon” (see image below) the “Request for the Participation” issued by the Health Ministry (not even termed a tender or public call) for the building of a prefabricated hospital closed.

Issued a mere 48 hours before, it should have led to the choice of the preferred bidder to build, on a site not yet determined, a temporary hospital for 90 beds for the critical treatment of the patients hit by the pandemic engulfing the world.

Yes, the public document issued last Tuesday specified the “Requests for Participation should be ONLY submitted not later than 10:00 noon on Thursday 26th March 2020”.

Was it 10am or noon, one of the interested bidders enquired?

You would have thought that in a document of this magnitude and vitality in this time of unprecedented crisis, an emergency which has led the Prime Minister to demand from Parliament the draconian power to take over any privately owned immovable property anywhere, to find our public administration primed with precision.

Not at all.

What Fearne said

This morning, Deputy Prime Minister Fearne is quoted thus in the Times of Malta:

“Following the allegation, Fearne had suspended bidding and called for an administrative review of the process. On Saturday, Fearne said that the review was still ongoing and that he awaited its results. The minister, however, expressed scepticism about the claims, saying he had received “a note” from the company in question. “They are not only denying that they knew [about the project] beforehand but also saying that they didn’t even bid [for the project],” the minister said. “These allegations are completely unfounded,” Fearne said, adding however that the review would continue.”

Has anyone of you ever encountered any instance of someone full of zeal owning up to criminal behaviour without even, and before, being interrogated by the Police?

But my good friend Mr Fearne, whose personal integrity and unparalleled medical knowledge and prowess I admire, should not be satisfied simply because he received an assuring “note” from the interested party.

Pertinent questions:

Mr Fearne: would you be so kind as to inform the public:

  • a) who is conducting the investigation?
  • b) who has been interrogated?
  • c) will the review results be published?
  • d) did you approve that a medical tender of this magnitude be adjudicated simply on the basis of price?
  • e) who approved, against time-honoured practice and law, the acceptance of bids well after 10am, indeed well after 12pm last Thursday?
  • f) why was this Request for Participation approved with NO specifications, a thing probably done for the first time ever?
  • g) what are the required specifications of the High Dependency unit, the X-Ray Room, the ITU, the Triage Area and the ICT Unit, to name a few of the complex items needed?
  • h) who approved the Request/Tender insisting on Government purchasing not renting the prefabricated hospital?
  • i) who and why approved for the first-ever time in the history of public procurement, such a Request/Tender requesting one lump sum from each bidder, and not an itemised bid as is always done for obvious reasons?
  • j) Who and why authorised clause 8 of the Request for Participation saying: “Following the closing date, the Evaluation Committee shall evaluate the received proposals against the criteria, specifications and conditions set out in this Request for Participation”, when the same document does not mention ANY criteria, specifications and conditions?
  • k) Did the Director of Contracts vetted and authorised this Request for Participation, and when?

Final note

On a final note: I’m publishing the 22 applications for participation accepted (see below), including those illegally received even 4 hours after the closing of the submissions.

Minister: how on earth will you, with confidence and sincerity, assure the Maltese public that the lowest bid (€3.9M accepted at 10:28am) is indeed in the best interest of the Maltese patients, rather than the highest bid of €29M accepted at 13:51hrs)? Or will you decide that the €8.9M bid (accepted at 9.49am) is indeed providing better value for money than the €6.5M bid (accepted at 10am)?

Jason Azzopardi is a PN MP

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