The Malta Independent 16 January 2018, Tuesday

Konrad Mizzi knew for almost a year that VGH was failing

David Lindsay Sunday, 14 January 2018, 10:15 Last update: about 2 days ago

Minister Konrad Mizzi was aware that Vitals Global Healthcare was in dire financial straits and consequently unable to meet its construction deadlines for almost a full year, The Malta Independent on Sunday is reliably informed.

Mizzi is the former health minister who ushered VGH into Malta and sold it a 30-year concession to run three state hospitals.

Mizzi, who had been stripped of his health and energy portfolios by the Prime Minister in the wake of the Panama Papers’ revelations, was appointed as tourism minister, and the government agency Projects Malta was placed under his remit.

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Projects Malta, in turn, plays fundamental roles in two of three committees overseeing the VGH projects — at Gozo General Hospital, Karen Grech Hospital, and St Luke’s Hospital.

One committee deals with quality assurance — under the direct remit of the health ministry — and ensures that the hospitals are being run up to the standards stipulated in the contract between the government and VGH.

Another committee deals with the hospital construction work and is manned mainly by government appointees from the health and construction sectors, serving as a watchdog to ensure that the stipulated deadlines are met. A third committee, meanwhile, deals with project management and comprises members from both VGH and the government.

Sources speaking to this newspaper have confirmed that while matters were progressing relatively well in the first committee dealing with quality assurance, there were several problems with the latter two, which fall under the remit of Projects Malta and hence, Minister Mizzi, who specifically dealt with construction deadlines and other milestones that were to have been met by VGH.

But despite the fact that the problems in the areas under Mizzi’s remit had been growing slowly for months as VGH’s funds dried up and left the company unable to meet its construction deadlines, Mizzi, according to sources speaking to this newspaper, had consistently downplayed the problems and always continued to insist that everything was on track.

The charge, according to sources that have come forward to this newspaper, is that Mizzi knew of the dire financial straits VGH had found itself in and that it was grievously behind on construction targets, but said nothing of the woes the projects were facing.

The situation deteriorated for almost a full year, until last month the government made the sudden and rather unexpected announcement that VGH was to sell its contentious concession off to the American firm Steward Healthcare.

Questions sent to Mizzi yesterday asking him when he had been made aware of the situation at VGH, whether he had informed current Health Minister Chris Fearne, or indeed the Prime Minister himself of the situation, and what action he had taken remained unanswered at the time of print.

The government has provided the company, which was entrusted with the provision of healthcare services through the Gozo, Karin Grech and St Luke’s hospitals, with over €40 million in salaries, medicines, and other items over the last 21 months.

Mizzi, who had presented the project with much fanfare, appears to now be distancing himself from it, having been noticeably absent from the announcement of the sale despite being the minister responsible for private-public partnerships, through Projects Malta, when he had even attended the ceremony which lifted the state guarantees in regards to Electrogas a few days earlier.

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