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‘War’ over multimillion-euro Paola health centre tender

The chosen bid was €3.6 million higher than the cheapest one

An artist’s impression of the new public health centre in Paola

An artist’s impression of the new public health centre in Paola

Three firms have objected to a multimillion-euro bid selected for a new public health centre in Paola, saying it was over €3.6 million higher than the cheapest one.

Egron-Technoline JV, CMC di Ravenna and FMM Joint Venture paid €50,000 each to officially object to the Public Contracts Review Board, arguing their exclusion from the tender by the evaluation committee was illegal.

“A declaration of war” is how sources close to the tender process described the objections.

“Although it is normal that a tender of such a magnitude attracts an objection by a losing party, it is very unusual that three of the tenderers put their hands in their pockets to pay €50,000 just to object,” the source said.

“They must have clear indications that something in the evaluation of this tender may have gone very wrong.”

The selected bidder – SP BB International JV – is a consortium made up of three companies: Ray Vella & Co Ltd, Pantalesco and Shapoorji. No public records on the consortium could be traced at the time of writing.

Ray Vella & Co Ltd was involved in building the Labour Party headquarters, and Shapoorji is an Indian company that was originally brought to Malta to build the facilities planned by Vitals Global Healthcare.

Finding the other bidders for the health centre technically non- compliant, the contracts committee awarded the project to SP BB International JV for almost €26 million, the sources said.

The three bidders who are challenging the selection are now insisting the review board should annul it.

Arguing it had the cheapest offer by about €3.6 million, Technoline Ltd, which leads the Ergon-Technoline group, argued that although the evaluation board was supposed to award the tender to “the cheapest-priced offer satisfying the administrative and technical criteria”, the successful bidder’s offer was 16 per cent more expensive.

Lawyer Ian Refalo, who signed Technoline’s appeal, objected to the contracts committee comments that one of its key experts had a conflict of interest because he was also involved in the drafting of parts of the tender by the Health Ministry.

Technoline was recently in the news following an announcement from Vitals that it had awarded the company an “exclusive contract” to manage the supply of all medical equipment and pharmaceuticals for the Karin Grech, St Luke’s and Gozo General hospitals following a multimillion-euro deal with the government, struck following a change in Technoline’s shareholding.

Documents from the Malta Financial Services Authority show that Technoline’s shares were recently bought by Gateway Solution, of which employee Ivan Vassallo became the sole shareholder and director.

Mr Vassallo is listed as the director of three companies set up after 2015 including MMXVI, which lists Brian Tonna’s BT International as a shareholder.

The other two objectors to the Paola tender complained that the decision to declare them technically non-complaint was based on false premises and should, therefore, be reversed.

The government initially expected the new Paola health hub to be operational in 2020.

However, the construction project is already considered to be a year behind schedule.

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