Dar San Ġużepp project in the offing since 2013

A new home for the elderly in Gozo which has been in the offing for almost a decade at a cost of over €1 million from taxpayers money, could be set for further delays as the government has not set a completion date.

This saga started in 2013 when the Gozo Ministry had announced a project to transform a former Church youth hostel – Dar San Ġużepp in Għajnsielem – into a government-run residence for the elderly comprising 70 rooms and 140 beds. Nine years down the line, the project lies abandoned as works grounded to a complete halt. However, the government has already incurred €1.01 million in rent costs in line with the property lease agreement which expires in 2048.

The matter was flagged by the National Audit Office in a report which investigated the extent to which current practices related to residential and community care implemented by the Gozo Ministry contributed to optimal services based on value-for-money principles, quality, efficiency and reasonable prices.  

From this investigation it transpired that the delays were symptomatic of planning and contract management weaknesses which were not solely within the ministry’s responsibility. A case in point relates to the tendering evaluation process whereby a call issued in July 2020 was still being evaluated by the time of writing.

Moreover, the NAO also flagged the lack of clarity in government’s plans with respect to who would run the facility. Though initially the decision was to have a State-run home, later on in 2018, the government commissioned a study to assess the preferred financial and economic model. Surprisingly, it emerged that the best model was not that embarked upon five years before but to subcontract the home to third parties as this could save between €30 to €40 per patient per day. Consequently, this prompted the NAO to remark that it would have been more beneficial if such a study had been undertaken at the very beginning in 2013.

In its conclusion the NAO gave a rather negative outlook for the project, given that at the time of writing the ministry could not set a definite conclusion date and a timeline when the home would welcome the first residents. Throughout this project various dates were floated by the government but the deadline was repeatedly missed, the last time being the start of last year.

Short of calling the expenditure incurred so far as money down the drain the NAO remarked that expenditure relating to the rental of this residence would continue to soar without any benefits in the near future. In view of this it called on the ministry to establish if the project should forge ahead as originally planned and to appoint a robust project management team and to deliver it.