Opposition MP Adrian Delia on Monday accused the government of “denying reality” on the hospitals’ concession deal between the government and Steward Health Care, arguing that the government “is stating we’re increasing investment in healthcare when in reality it’s Steward itself that is declaring that the Vitals concession was the result of fraud and corruption”.
Delia quoted extensively from The Shift’s investigation published last week on the government’s agreements with Steward Health Care, which revealed that agreements the government has so far kept secret had been filed in court by the company to argue the deal was “fraudulent” and “corrupt”.
While stating that he believed the government did attempt to renegotiate the deal with Steward Health Care, Delia stressed that the “abusive and corrupt contract”, in spite of its €100 million buy-out clause as well as a whole host of other provisos gifted to the concessionaires, must be terminated. Delia is pursuing a case in court to have the deal revoked and the hospitals returned to the public.
“If you have something born in fraud and corruption, you cannot have a situation in which they demand the government pays them,” Delia said, promising any assistance that may be required from the Opposition Party throughout the process.
The Shift’s investigation outlined how the government attempted to pass off a €20 million increase in funding in the last budget as an ‘investment in healthcare’, neglecting to explain that the increase would go straight to Steward Health Care’s coffers, according to the documents filed in court.
“The health minister asked us whether we’re objecting to increased investment in our healthcare system. We want to increase as many millions in investment as needed when it comes to healthcare, but not in this way,” Delia said in parliament.
“This investment needs to go directly into healthcare, not giving an increase to those who are contractually obliged to give us services we know they are not actually delivering,” the MP added.
Delia stressed the contract was originally given to Vitals through collusion and ignoring public procurement regulations. It was deputy prime minister Chris Fearne who had declared Steward Health Care to be the ‘real deal’,” Delia said, referring to Fearne’s efforts to sell the transfer to the public in 2017.
“Now, they themselves are stating that the contract they acquired from their predecessors was fraudulent and corrupt. What more do we need? We now have the company we are paying €69 million a year telling us that they are operating a fraudulent and corrupt agreement,” he added.
Addressing Prime Minister Robert Abela, Delia also spoke of how the prime minister had, when first appointed, promised that a board of experts would be appointed to review the concession agreements, but this had never materialised.
The 488 pages of legal documents, agreements, side letters and correspondence analysed by The Shift for its investigation revolve around a case in which Steward Health Care is contesting the enforcement of a court ruling in London in favour of one of the original investors in Vitals.
As part of that Steward Health Care has summoned to testify in court Prime Minister Robert Abela, disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat, his chief of staff Keith Schembri, Health Minister Chris Fearne and the one who signed off on the deal – Konrad Mizzi.
While the court sitting was supposed to take place on 28 September, Steward Health Care postponed it to February of next year at the last minute, indicating that behind-the-scenes settlement negotiations may be taking place. Yet this is only one of five cases being faced by the concessionaire, in what promises to be a tsunami of embarrassing litigation.