The Malta Independent 18 April 2024, Thursday
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‘The government is the victim’, Joseph Muscat says on hospitals deal annulment

Monday, 13 March 2023, 15:22 Last update: about 2 years ago

Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has said that it is the government which is the victim in the annulment of the concession to sell three public hospitals to the private sector.

Facing journalists in Valletta, Muscat was grilled on points concerning the Steward Health Care hospitals concession, which a court annulled last month and found to have fraudulent and “possibly criminal” elements within it.

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The deal was signed under Muscat’s watch and started in 2016, with the concessionaire initially being Vitals Global Healthcare -  a company which had no experience whatsoever in the health sector.

VGH later sold the concession off to Steward for 1.  Many of the obligations outlined in the concession for infrastructural improvements to the hospitals are yet to be fulfilled.

Muscat said he takes responsibility for the project but said that the fraudulent elements in the deal were to the detriment of the government.

Asked whether he would issue some sort of apology for the deal, Muscat said that he expects the truth to be known in full, and added that he expects the case to continue as he thinks that Steward will file an appeal.  “I hope all the information comes out,” he said.

“On the question of an apology – when you are in government you had to take decisions.  Some are implemented well, some don’t turn out as good or aren’t implemented.  This was something which wasn’t done satisfactorily,” he said.

When it was pointed out that it goes beyond not being implemented well, as the court said that there were fraudulent elements to it, Muscat replied: “Yes, and in all of this, the government was the victim.”

“If you read the [court] sentence, that’s what it says; not that the government defrauded the people, but that the government was defrauded,” he said.

Asked about current Prime Minister Robert Abela, Muscat replied: “Don’t try and invent divisions between me and the Prime Minister, I have every faith in him.”

Muscat was also asked whether the side agreement signed by Konrad Mizzi which gave Steward a 100 million exit fee if either them or the government were to break the concession agreement was discussed by the Cabinet.

“All that was discussed by the Cabinet is minuted in the Auditor General’s report and there are extensive minutes including all of this,” Muscat said.

He said that the matters are documented in the Cabinet minutes and that he had taken political responsibility as it was in the country’s interests.

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