Just to put things in perspective. Robert Abela recognised that the procurement of a €275 million project at St Vincent de Paul did not tick procedural boxes. He grossly understated the egregious flouting of procurement law but even the minimal things he acknowledged he justified by saying we now have a larger SVDP residence and that’s a good thing.
That excuse could be used for anything. Anything the government buys is for public utility. If they buy a school, we’ll have a school. If the justification is in the school, why should there be a competition to choose the best-priced school builders?
The SVDP extension was awarded by direct order. Let me place this in context. By lunchtime, today suppliers of a certain specific product are required to provide technical specifications and a price for the following highly specialised equipment to the Ministry of Education.
The Ministry of Education needs to buy 9 bottles of shampoo, 9 bottles of conditioner, 9 bottles of scalp condition treatments, 9 styling products, 6 hair finishing products, 1 hairdryer, 6 brushes, 9 combs, 6 sectioning clips, 3 bowls and 3 tinting brushes.
But the rules don’t allow a clerk to walk to the nearest supermarket and put these in a trolley. They need 3 quotations, several forms, a report and a filing in the record before someone upstairs approves the purchase.
Now the risk of the loss of value for money between buying shampoo from a more or less expensive shop would not break the bank. But rules are rules and breaking them is not justified by saying, but look, we have shampoo.
There’s so little money to make selling a trolley cart of hair products to the government, no one in their right mind is going to build in a kickback to fund political parties. But if you’re building a hospital extension or taking a contract to supply its inmates with food for 10 years, then it’s a different story.
A country that accepts Robert Abela’s ends justify means excuses or is not bothered to shout him down for it, is a country that deserves to be robbed.
Tangentopoli is a city of happy fools.