The Malta Independent 27 September 2023, Wednesday
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Abela is going to keep defending Steward instead of the people, PN Deputy Leader says

Sabrina Zammit Friday, 17 March 2023, 17:24 Last update: about 7 months ago

Prime Minister Robert Abela is going to keep defending Steward Health Care instead of the people, despite having had multiple chances to stop doing so, PN Deputy Leader Alex Perici Calascione said on Friday.

He said that the PN had been warning the government that privatising the hospitals was a bad idea since the very start. He said that from 2015 till the present day, the Opposition has given the government ample chances to join forces, with the latest one being a motion filed by the PN earlier this month.

The Nationalist Party tabled the motion for Parliament to condemn the now annulled deal which saw three hospitals sold by concession to Vitals Global Healthcare and then Steward Health Care and to oblige the Prime Minister to take any action necessary to recover what was paid to the concessionaires.

However, on Thursday during a special parliamentary sitting, the Justice Minister presented amendments which weakened the motion significantly, and which were allowed by the Speaker of the House, despite Opposition arguments that the government had used up its talking time.

Perici Calascione went on to say that it is disappointing that the Prime Minister is still defending Steward even now, as the PN appeals for them to unite to favour the people.

During his speech in parliament on Thursday Abela said that it was not true to state that Steward took €400 million without carrying out any work, contrary to what the PN has been saying. He later said that he shall be sending a formal letter to the Auditor General to investigate Delia's allegation that Steward took €400 million and gave nothing in return.

He added that Steward made infrastructural investments and supported Karin Grech Hospital and the Gozo General Hospital, "contrary to what the PN said." He said that the idea that Steward only built a toilet was completely false.

The deputy leader went on to say how in his defence speech, Abela did not mention anything related to Vitals, regardless of the fact that it was the first company with whom the government entered the concession.

Additionally, Abela didn’t even mention how in order for Stewards to obtain the loan from BOV they presented the contract where it stated that even if the contract were to fail, Steward was still going to get €100 million.

On her part, PN MP Rebekah Borg said that “it is surreal how Abela is still defending Steward after a court judgement and even after the company itself came out against the government”.

Referencing the court judgement, Borg said that even the court raised suspicions on the lack of evidence being brought to court by Steward, saying that this reflects the type of investment Steward did in the hospitals.

She added that when the court was looking into the agreement it was “surprised how, the government was so willing to give a contract which was not beneficial to the people.

On his part, PN MP Darren Carabott went on to detail the string of events in which the government was given a chance to change its course in regard to Steward and the concession.

He said how this all started back in 2015 when journalists red flagged the contract.

In 2016, several unions working at the hospitals also wrote to parliament about how the contract was being done without any consultation.

In January 2018, the PN asked for the auditor general to investigate the matter and the following month, then-PN Leader Adrian Delia opened the case in court.

In July 2020, in his first report the auditor general condemned the tender process.

In the second report published in December of 2021 the auditor general also said that there was something wrong with the contracts, “however the government here also did nothing.”

Carabott said that the court case is the latest confirmation that the contract was fraudulent, thereby confirming what the Auditor General, the Opposition and journalists have been saying all along.

He concluded by saying that now the PN is showing that it is a party which does not care about colours and is focused on being the hope that the people want to see for the country to become more united.

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