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Throwing cash at the scam of the two-headed man

Steward Healthcare wants more money from you.

They’re also playing the victim because they have to sort out the accounting mess of the concession they took over for a princely €1.

We’ve all heard by now how Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) left some €36 million in debt, despite soaking up millions of euro in taxpayer funding for running three of your public hospitals. They also ‘forgot’ to file legally required audited accounts in 2015, 2016 or 2017.

You’d think sorting out the books wouldn’t be much to ask of Steward after they grabbed three public hospitals for a buck. That’s assuming they didn’t even examine those accounts before agreeing to take over the contract.

But it was Steward chief executive Armin Ernst’s comments to the Times of Malta that made me spit coffee on my keyboard.

“It is not Steward’s responsibility but it was the task of the supervising health authorities to ensure the proper use of public funds by the previous entity.”

In other words, ‘It wasn’t our job to make sure you weren’t defrauded, it was your job.’ But he gets even more brazen…

He claimed it wasn’t possible to figure out where the money went or if it was used legitimately because of the convoluted nature of VGH’s operational structure and lack of proper accounting.

But he’s got some good news for you…

“We have unwound the existing complicated and shifting structure comprising a multitude of organisations in a multitude of countries,” Ernst said. “We restructured the concession into a simple and transparent organisational structure that is 100% based in Malta.”

As The Shift revealed in its cross-border investigation, it was Ernst and his friends who popped up in those countries.

They didn’t unwind them in order to make things better for you. They shut them down because the funds have already been drained. The companies served their purpose and are no longer needed.

Tracking the career of Ernst is enough to send anyone to St. Luke’s for whiplash. He left Steward to join Vitals as CEO in 2016. In October 2017, he left Vitals to join Steward. Then he went back to Vitals as managing director after Steward bought it for a €1.

Could you imagine the conversation that must have gone on when Ernst showed up to demand more money from Prime Minister Robert Abela — accompanied by none other than King of Kickbackistan Joseph Muscat?

It’s like Ernst put on a fake beard and hat, walked to the other side of the room and said, “I don’t know what those Vitals guys were doing over there with their convoluted management scheme, but it’ll take us a while to sort it out.”

Ernst was Vitals convoluted management scheme. Why doesn’t he just ask himself?

And while he’s at it, Ernst can ask himself what he and Ram Tumuluri — the Steward-Vitals Dynamic Duo — are up to in Montenegro and Albania? Are they working together to defraud taxpayers in other countries, using their ‘success’ in Malta as their calling card?

Come on Armie, look inwards and enlighten us all.

Speaking of the Lobby of the Unhinged, former Prime Minister Alfred Sant has graced what is surely no more than a handful of masochistic readers with his opinion of the traffic police overtime fraud scandal.

Sant agreed billing for overtime work that was never performed “amounted to corruption, fraud and a dereliction of public duties.”

But he goes on to suggest that, if such fraud is found in other departments and not just among traffic police, then it probably means these employees feel they are being underpaid.

“So it is considered legitimate to use any stratagem that might compensate for the problem,” he said. “One option is to skive and go work somewhere else on government time. And there’s the option of registering more hours of work than one has really done in order to jack up the financial rewards of one’s actual hours of service…”

What the hell is that supposed to mean?

I don’t feel writers are paid very well. Should I just raid my publisher’s office next time I’m in town, maybe swipe the petty cash fund and grab a few laptops to sell?

If public employees feel they’re underpaid, they have two options. One is to raise the issue with their employer, either individually or collectively, and push for a raise. And the other is to quit and get a job somewhere else.

If a former prime minister is suggesting a policy more akin to “the lord helps those who helps themselves” while helping oneself to extra cash, then it’s no wonder corruption is rampant in Malta, and that the dirtiest among them feel no shame.

Read more from The Vitals Global Healthcare investigation.

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