The Malta Independent 4 August 2020, Tuesday

‘I shouldered responsibility long ago’, Joseph Muscat says of Vitals deal

Shona Berger Wednesday, 8 July 2020, 16:41 Last update: about 26 days ago

“I shouldered responsibility long ago”, former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told The Malta Independent when asked whether he would shoulder responsibility over the government’s deal with Vitals Global Healthcare.

Muscat was questioned as he was leaving parliament after a NAO report concluded that the hospitals privatisation deal was predetermined and that the documents provide "proof of collusion with government or its representatives."

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"The overlap between this Agreement and the concession was clear and created major doubt and concern regarding the integrity of the eventual concession”, the report read before also noting that VGH should have been disqualified from the process.

“I shouldered responsibility long ago… I shouldered responsibility long ago… I am not saying that anything wrong was done”, Muscat, who was Prime Minister when the deal was signed, said before getting into his car.

Health Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne meanwhile said that he had understood that the conclusions drawn by the NAO on the deal are “serious and cannot be ignored”.

“Yes, I am saying that what the NAO said will be taken into consideration and certainly will not be ignored”, Fearne said.

Other government MPs were asked whether they feel that, given the NAO’s conclusions, the contract should be investigated and ultimately revoked.

Parliamentary Secretary Alex Muscat said that he had not seen the full report, but that one must see its conclusions and follow the advice given accordingly, while Silvio Parnis similarly said that the report will be analysed and the next steps will follow from there.

Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister Carmelo Abela reiterated what Prime Minister Robert Abela said earlier this morning and said that the investigation concerns Vitals Global Healthcare which is no longer involved in the current contract, and that the necessary analysis is currently ongoing.

Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri said that everytime a report like this emerges, all the necessary decisions are taken and that both as a party and a government, contrary to others, had always taken those necessary decisions.

Energy Minister Michael Farrugia said that the government will follow "exactly" the advice given by the NAO. Parliamentary Secretary Clifton Grima meanwhile said that there isn't much to add to what was said in the report, and that the government should let the country's institutions work.

Government whip Glenn Bedingfield simply said “wait a bit and we will see”, while Finance Minister Edward Scicluna chose to ignore the questions and continue walking into parliament. Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo also did not answer the question put to him.

Earlier this morning, Prime Minister Abela said that he will stand by the NAO report but said that the situation pertaining to VGH and to Steward Healthcare – to whom the concession was eventually sold to – are separate.

 

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