Questions on prefabricated hospital vaguely answered

The government seems to not provide detailed answers or guidance to the queries of some of the companies who have submitted their application to supply a prefabricated hospital for coronavirus patients.

Twenty-two companies and joint ventures have applied after last Monday, 23rd March 2020, the government issued a call for tenders for the purchase and installation of a modular extendable panel negative-pressure field hospital which is to be built in a carpark close to Mater Dei Hospital.

Almost all the companies who applied demanded more information regarding the specifications of the temporary hospital.  

At least four of the companies and/or joint ventures raised questions so that the government can provide them with the relevant information in order to place their bid in time. These received the “vague” answer stating that “any company with enough experience in the setting of these temporary premises should be well acquainted  on the requirements, standards and quality of these areas.”

No to renting

Companies asked specifications such as; the space occupied by each bed, the required distance between the beds and the passage for the medical staff, the required amount of ventilators, generators and monitors, more information about the pharmacy unit and the mortuary unit amongst other questions.

When asked if the government is interested to rent out the facilities of a prefabricated hospital, the reply was no and that the government of Malta is only interested in the purchasing option only.

Another query by companies that made their bid was that the timeframe to build this hospital and to complete it with all the equipment is too short and the penalty imposed per day in the eventuality of delays, is too high.

The government said that given the high alert to the pandemic preparedness for COVID-19, there cannot be any delays with the installations and that is why the preferred bidder must have the necessary skills and experience to undertake such project within a short timeframe.

Bids ranging from €3.9 million to €29 million

Government has received 22 applications for participation with the price offered to build a prefabricated/temporary hospital to treat coronavirus patients varied from € 3,997,770 to € 29, 000,000.

14 out of the 22 submitted their offer on time. There were 8 who submitted their bid after.

Over 25 clarification requests were made by the bidders as even the deadline stated in the original request for participation issued raised doubts, as the companies were not sure if the closing date for the submission of offers was till Thursday 26th March 2020 at 10:00 am or at noon.

The government later had to confirm that the deadline was at 10:00 am.

The controversy so far

Last week PN MP Jason Azzopardi alleged that ‘a prefabricated scandal was in the making’ and in an article on Newsbook.com.mt, Azzopardi said: “how come a German company based in Hessen, called Roder, was requested by TEC Ltd, more than two weeks ago, to furnish this local company owned by a Labour Party crony, with a detailed quotation to bid for this hospital with inflated cubicles?”

Jason Azzopardi has also said that “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.

The PN MP claimed that “one 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.” But this has not happened stated Azzopardi.

Deputy Prime Minister’s reply

Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne said that the allegations are unfounded.

Answering the questions of journalists during a press conference in Gozo on Saturday, Minister Chris Fearne said that he is informed that the mentioned company has denied the allegations and did not bid for the tender.

Fearne said that he does not tolerate certain allegations but in view of the mentioned allegation by PN MP Jason Azzopardi has the CEO of CPSU to suspend the tendering process and has also asked the Permanent Secretary within his Ministry and the Contracts Department to investigate the possibility of irregularities on this matter.

Minister Fearne also said that he informed the Cabinet of his decisions and that the results of the administrative review have not been published yet.