Opposition leader Bernard Grech and MP Adrian Delia are challenging Prime Minister Robert Abela to come clean on his exact involvement in the hospitals scandal in parliament on Monday when he will “be expected to accept and answer for the role he played in this theft from the State”.
The Opposition plans to demand a debate on Friday’s damning court ruling ordering the rescission of all the public contracts associated with the corruption-tainted Vitals Global Healthcare and Steward Health Care deals.
Abela has sought to distance himself from the deals, claiming they had been before his time at the helm.
But both Grech and Delia have insisted he is to be held accountable since he had served as a legal consultant to the Office of the Prime Minister under his predecessor Joseph Muscat and he had also been an MP who voted to renew the deal and to allocate tens of millions of euros to the operation year after year.
Abela insisted in comments to the press on Friday evening in the ruling’s wake that he “was not even a member of parliament” at the time that deals were entered into.
Grech at a press conference convened earlier today in front of Gozo General Hospital – one of the hospitals the court ordered on Friday to be returned to the people – stressed Abela must answer to parliament.
He demanded the Prime Minister accepts to have a debate held on the deal, the judgement and Abela’s involvement at Monday session.
Grech called for Abela to shoulder responsibility, and said that evading questions and trying to shift the blame onto former prime minister Joseph Muscat was nothing short of “cowardly behaviour”.
He called for proper accountability to be shouldered for the fraudulent deal, and that there are people who “should answer for this theft from Maltese taxpayer money”.
He explained how, “Abela continued defending this deal with his colleagues when he became an MP in 2017, when he became Labour leader and when he was elected Prime Minister in 2019.”
He also pointed out how Abela had voted to increase Steward’s payments 2020, 2021 and in 2022 – “taking the side of the corrupt and fraudsters instead of that of the Maltese people”.
Delia, who opened the court case in the first place in his capacity as an MP, highlighted how Abela served as a legal consultant for the cabinet throughout the initial stages of the deal, rubbishing his claims of non-involvement.
Delia criticised what he described as a “deafening silence” from the government following Friday’s ruling.
He slammed Abela for vigorously defending the lost case to its better end and deploying seven lawyers to represent him and, by default, the “corrupt and fraudulent foreigners who continue stealing from the people up to this very day”.
The deal’s continued renewal meant that by the end of 2022, taxpayers had forked out more than €300 million while VGH and Steward repeatedly missed deadlines and milestones and failed to deliver any of the promised outcomes.
He described Abela’s “excuse” that it this all happened before his time at Castille as “childish”. He was, first and foremost a consultant to the OPM, and, later, an MP who continuously voted to increase funding for the corrupt deal.
In April 2020 when Delia was Opposition leader, Abela had been against a motion Delia tabled calling on the government to retract Steward’s contentious €100 million escape that was to kick in should the hospitals deal be rescinded by the courts. The court on Friday rescinded both the deal as well as the additional €100 million caveat.
In 2021, when the Opposition filed a judicial protest over the fact that a budget vote in favour of an additional €23 million in funding for Steward would make them “complicit in crime”, Abela nevertheless went ahead and approved the additional millions.