Malta’s Chamber of Commerce has called for a reform of the country’s public procurement regulations, following a damning report by the auditor general into the manner contract for works at the St Vincent de Paul home for the elderly was awarded to the MHC consortium.
The National Audit Office (NAO) report, published last month, raised a number of concerns about the contract for the construction of a new residential block, as well as a new kitchen, including the fact that procurement regulations were breached in the tender being awarded.
“The chamber insists on full transparency in public procurement and on the importance of observing good governance principles, as well as providing an equal playing field for all at all times,” the chamber said in a statement.
The €274 million contract was awarded to the MHC Consortium, which includes James Caterers and DB Group, with the auditor general noting that the necessary political approval had not been obtained before the contract was finalised.
The report also noted that the contract being awarded through a negotiated procedure, rather than a tender, was in breach of the law.
In its statement, the chamber said that given that public procurement accounted for a substantial portion of taxpayer money used by the government, there was an increased obligation for this to be used in a transparent manner.
With this in mind, the Chamber reiterated its call for the inclusion of a number of safeguards to Malta’s public procurement regulations.
These include the periodic publication of a procurement outlook, the implementation of a public contracts register which would also minute all modifications introduced after a contract has been awarded, as well as the widening of the scope of the Public Contracts Review Board’s competence to include scrutiny of all direct orders.
“Public procurement represents an important and significant component of business opportunities,” the Chamber said, adding that it would continue to advocate for the implementation of recommendations aimed at ensuring a “sound market based on ethical standards and fair competitiveness.