The Malta Independent 5 December 2021, Sunday

Watch: Government would do everything possible to avoid paying Steward €100m exit clause - PM

Tuesday, 23 November 2021, 14:17 Last update: about 11 days ago

Should Steward Health Care exit its hospitals concession, the government would do everything possible to avoid paying a €100 million exit fee, Prime Minister Robert Abela told journalists on Tuesday.

The government and Steward are currently involved in negotiations over the company’s concession to run three former state hospitals.

Steward, which took over the concession from Vitals Global Healthcare in 2018, has asked for better conditions.

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It had initially started discussions with then special projects minister Konrad Mizzi, but these talks were held behind the Cabinet’s [including the Health Minister’s] back.

This newsroom had also revealed that, in 2020, former PM Joseph Muscat had attended a meeting between PM Abela and Steward, during which he argued in favour of a better contract for Steward. The recommendation was opposed by Fearne.

Last year, former Opposition Leader Adrian Delia, who has launched a court battle to get the hospitals privatisation deal rescinded, revealed that Mizzi had signed another agreement with Steward which bound the Maltese government to pay €100 million to the company if it cancelled the concession.

Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, PM Abela said, “the main message here is that there are contractual obligations that have to be fulfilled. The government will keep insisting that these obligations are adhered to [by Steward]. If they fail to do this, the government will act through legal means.”

These contractual obligations may be related to the provision of services or the paying of taxes, he added.

Asked about the exit clause, Abela said that, if Steward were to choose to leave the concession, “the government will do anything possible to avoid paying the €100m.”

Asked whether this clause had been signed behind the government’s back, Abela, who was a government consultant at the time, said he had only learnt about the agreement “after it was signed.”

Asked what advice he had given then PM Joseph Muscat on the Steward deal, Abela said he had not been involved.

He insisted that the positions expressed by himself, by Fearne and by the government are the same.

 

Video: Giuseppe Attard

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