Finance Minister asks for report on claims of record €274 million direct order

Finance Minister asks for report on claims of record €274 million direct order

inance Minister Edward Scicluna, Malta said on Monday that neither him nor his ministry had given any form of approval for a record €274 million direct order relating to the St. Vincent de Paul home for the elderly, and that he had asked for a report on these claims to be compiled.

The case in question concerns a report which appeared in the Sunday Times of Malta, quoting sources in saying that a €58 million catering contract at the home was about to change into a €274 million direct order.

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The direct order, which according to these sources was to be linked by the government to a Private Public Partnership scheme to the extension of St Vincent de Paul in the form of a new 500-bed facility, was given to James Caterers and Malta Healthcare – a subsidiary of SeaBank DB Group.

Sources within the finance ministry reportedly told the Sunday Times of Malta that this would be a record direct order in Malta’s history, but they could not confirm whether it had been signed by Scicluna or his permanent secretary Alfred Camilleri.

Speaking to the press on Monday however, Scicluna said that he had not certified anything and that no such direct order had come to his desk.  Furthermore, Scicluna said that he had asked the director of contracts to compile a report over what was reported in the Sunday Times of Malta.

On their part, The Sunday Times of Malta said it had received no reply from the government to questions that they had initially asked back in May, and that a Freedom of Information request had been refused, citing “commercial reasons”.

Government wants positive balance before IIP factored in

The government is targeting that this year a positive balance between income and expenditure is reached before the proceeds of the Individual Investor Programme (IIP) is factored in, Minister of Finance Edward Scicluna said on Monday.

This would show that the government is “living within its means”, Scicluna said before taking a swipe at previous governments whom, he said, had done the contrary leaving the country with a negative balance as a result.

The IIP, which has been at the centre of controversy ever since its inception in 2014, essentially sells Maltese citizenship for the price of €650,000 and a commitment to invest in property on the island and in bonds.

MEPs and some local politicians have in the past highlighted the unethical practice of putting a price on EU citizenship, while BBC’s John Sweeny even told Prime Minister Joseph Muscat that he was the “Artful Dodger of Europe” and the “passport-seller-in-chief” during an interview at the beginning of 2018.

Today the cash-for-passports scheme is still one that is shrouded in secrecy, with the government refusing to publish the names of those buying Maltese citizenship.  Instead, these names are included in an annual list of all naturalised Maltese citizens.

A total of €163.5 million was earned through the IIP in 2016, according to the National Statistics Office. That same year, Malta registered a surplus of €112.9 million.

Despite this, Scicluna said in April of this year that Malta would have retained its budgetary surplus even without the IIP scheme.

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