The Nationalist Party announced in a press conference held earlier today that it has filed a judicial protest against the government over the “fraudulent and corrupt” hospitals concession deal originally signed with Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH), later passed on to Steward Healthcare.
“Yesterday, with my colleague Adrian Delia, we presented a judicial protest against Prime Minister Robert Abela, among others,” Opposition Leader Bernard Grech said.
Besides the prime minister, the judicial protest also addresses Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg, Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa’, the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU), Bank of Valletta (the bank that will process the payments to Steward Healthcare), Malta Industrial Parks and Steward Healthcare itself.
“Unfortunately, it is clear that this government has, in its contract with Steward Healthcare, failed to spend our money wisely,” Grech continued. The press conference was held to highlight that the intent behind the judicial protest was to hold the government “politically and legally accountable” for its insistence on negotiating with Steward Healthcare instead of terminating the contract in court.
It was The Shift that revealed Steward Healthcare’s arguments in court that the deal was “fraudulent and corrupt” based on documents the company filed in court. As things stand, the government is facing the possibility of paying Steward Healthcare €100 million in exit fees should the contract be terminated. The PN said today it would not respect such an agreement.
The government’s proposed budget included an additional €20 million a year in taxpayer money to be paid to Steward Healthcare, over and above the €50 million a year they were already getting, despite a damning NAO report. The Shift’s article stressed that according to previous agreements signed, taxpayer money assigned to the hospitals goes straight to Steward Healthcare coffers.
Besides Grech citing this article at today’s press conference, two weeks ago, Delia had also quoted from The Shift’s report in an intervention he made in parliament. Health Minister Chris Fearne had deceptively described the extra €20 million as increased investment in the healthcare sector and batted off criticism by questioning whether opposition MPs were interested in the sector at all.
“We are in an unprecedented situation in our country. We never had a situation in which parliament had access to public information which clearly states that there is a fraudulent and corrupt contract tying down a government that will nonetheless consent to use taxpayer money for it,” Delia said at the press conference.
“We talked about this, explained it, sent our warnings, exposed and showed exactly what this contract is, and yet the government that listens decided not to listen,” Delia added.
The Opposition Party slammed Prime Minister Robert Abela for “lacking the courage and political will to take a decision in the favour of the Maltese people,” pledging to scrap the deal altogether if elected due to its fraudulent and corrupt nature.
PN also sought to highlight the pending vote on the approval of the additional €20 million to be allocated to Steward Healthcare. On 16 November, the government is expected to approve its budget, including the increase in expenditure related to the hospitals’ concession.
“Besides the court case which I instituted with the intent of getting this contract terminated since pre-set conditions were broken and the NAO report highlighting collusion before a public call was even issued, there is now no doubt that Steward Healthcare itself is declaring, in our courts, that the contract they acquired is fraudulent and corrupt,” Delia said.
“Every MP in that chamber will, when it comes to voting on how your money will be used, if they vote in favour, be an accomplice that is approving the payment of a fraudulent contract,” he added.