The Malta Independent 3 March 2024, Sunday
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Abela says he was not involved in Vitals deal, says he was never asked to testify

Marc Galdes Monday, 27 February 2023, 18:43 Last update: about 2 years ago

Prime Minister Robert Abela on Monday defended his position and said that he was never involved in the “fraudulent” hospital deal as the agreements were signed before he was in parliament.

Abela was speaking in Parliament during a debate on the controversial Steward Health Care hospitals concession, which was annulled by a court last Friday.

His speech followed that of former PN leader Adrian Delia, who accused the government of being party to the fraud found in the contract.

When talking about the case in parliament, Abela pointed out that the annulment was concerning four agreements, two of which were signed in 2015 and another two which were signed in 2016. He argued that when these agreements were signed he had not even been elected as a Member of Parliament, and he was not acting as legal consultant for the Cabinet at the time.

During his speech, Abela said that when he became Prime Minister he promised that he will continue building on what is good, and improving where necessary. He said that he will continue doing this.

He said that the attitude of the PN was promoting partisanship – a remark which sparked quite a reaction from the PN.

He referred to Adrian Delia as the Leader of the Opposition and went on to mock the PN and, while laughing, said that one cannot blame him for making such an error as “not even the PN knows who their leader is.” This also prompted a significant adverse reaction from the PN benches.

Speaker Anglu Farrugia was forced to intervene, saying that he will kick people out of the House if they do not let the Prime Minister speak.

Abela went on to mention PN MP Beppe Fenech Adami, with the Prime Minister saying that he will never negotiate with criminals – again prompting a vociferous and angry reaction from the PN.

Abela went on to attack the PN and said that nobody in the party ever trusted Delia, to the point that it was his own party which removed him from his post, and adding that current PN leader Bernard Grech had little to no support as well.

On the contrary, he said that people have always had faith in the government as it has always kept its word.

He said that although people might think that the PN are clean and “pure”, they are hypocrites.

He said that at the time the contracts mentioned in the case were signed, Grech was still thinking about whether or not he should pay his taxes. He continued attacking the PN, saying that the party wrote against Delia, and pushed to have him removed. He individually mentioned PN MP Claudette Buttigieg, who was one of a group of MPs who had led a campaign to oust Delia from the party leadership.

Abela then addressed Delia personally – Delia having been the person to file the case which was decided last Friday – and said that what the former PN leader had forgotten to mention was that although 55 witnesses were called to testify in the case, Delia had never asked him to testify.

This caused another loud reaction from the Opposition, and prompted Delia to call a point of order, wherein he said that in the three years that Abela was involved in the case, he had chosen to not testify himself. However, Farrugia said that this was not a point of order.

Abela then said that even the Auditor General never felt the need to summon Abela when he was compiling his own report into the contract.

He said that despite this case the hospitals have never stopped offering a service. He praised this service for having a great reputation.

He said that the government always was consistent in asking Steward to carry out its legal obligations, and they never gave them payment over what was agreed and which they did not carry out. He said that Steward asked to revise the agreements but this administration never did.

Abela added that the government has also filed an application in court so that the period of thirty days in which Steward can appeal the case is shortened. The application will be heard in court on Thursday. Also, he said that if Steward appeals to the court judgement, the government will ask the courts to handle this case as soon as possible.

He said that the government can guarantee that whatever happens, the health workers at the hospitals will keep their jobs and nothing will change in the health service patients are receiving.

Abela went on to praise Malta and assured investors that this is a safe place to invest. He condemned the PN for, as he put it, pushing investors away from the country.

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