The Malta Independent 7 June 2023, Wednesday
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Abela says he took action on hospitals deal before NAO report by kicking Konrad Mizzi out of PL

Monday, 20 March 2023, 18:23 Last update: about 4 months ago

Prime Minister Robert Abela pointed towards the sacking of a ‘person involved in the concession’ from the Labour Party – ostensibly a reference to former Health Minister Konrad Mizzi – as an example of a ‘decision’ he took on the hospitals deal prior to the first National Audit Office report.

Mizzi was kicked out of the Labour Party in June 2020 just two weeks before the National Audit Office published the first part of its report into the hospitals deal, where it found that there had been collusion between the first concessionaire Vitals Global Healthcare and the government on the concession.

“I took a decision regarding the concessions case before the first Auditor General report came out,” Abela said after being asked why he had taken no action on the hospitals deal when the NAO’s reports came out.

When pressed for what he did, Abela said “the decision I took involved kicking a person who was involved in the concession out of the Labour Party” – likely a reference to Konrad Mizzi.

When pressed as to why he didn’t stop the deal altogether, given that he was aware of the shady nature of the deal following the release of the report, Abela said that “a country run on the principle of the rule of law demands respect towards the very principles that allows the judge to make an independent ruling in the case.”

“Steward received payment, and gave back a service, but didn’t fully honour their obligations,” Abela said.

“The Auditor General report that I requested in this case will indicate the total payments received by VGH/Steward, what they gave back in terms of services and investments, and if it results that there is a discrepancy of even one cent in these two amounts, then I will personally mount a legal challenge to legally obtain the money owed.”

In relation to the heated parliamentary session called last week by the PN, Abela was asked why he seemed to stick his neck out so much in favour of Steward.

“I stick my neck out for the Maltese people and if there’s anyone who stopped Steward these last years, it’s me,” said Abela.

“When i spoke in parliament, I gave the full picture relating to the facts of the case, mentioning the contractual clauses that Steward didn’t honour,” said Abela.

Abela mentioned the “problem posed by the Opposition, namely their repeated false claims that Steward stole 400 million from public funds. They created pandemonium and wanted the people to believe their own skewed narrative.”

“I hope the auditor general, an office in which I have a lot of trust, will be able to settle the matter,” Abela said.

Prime Minister Robert Abela last Friday wrote to the Auditor General to request an investigation into the money which was transferred to Steward Health Care in connection with the hospitals deal, which was annulled by a court last month.

Magisterial inquiry has enough ‘power’ to figure out what happened in Sofia’s death

A magisterial inquiry gives the magistrate enough power to figure out what happened in Jean Paul Sofia’s death, Abela meanwhile said when asked about calls for a public inquiry into the youngster’s death in a construction collapse.

Abela was answering media questions outside MCAST Paola on Monday, about why he is not in favour of a public into Sofia’s death.

“The magistrate has all the powers necessary to conduct a wide-ranging inquiry in order to figure out what happened”, he said.

20-year-old Sofia died last December when a building under construction collapsed, and the man’s body was found by Civil Protection Department personnel many hours after the collapse.

Abela once again took the opportunity to “make an appeal to the presiding magistrate” to conclude the case as swiftly as possible “in order for those responsible to be brought to justice as quickly as possible.”

He said that in accordance with the Criminal Code of Malta, if the outcome of the inquiry finds that the magistrate is criminally neglectful, then the case can be referred to another magistrate or the appropriate authorities.

He added that it would be a mistake to try and limit the magistrate’s in this case.

“I have full confidence that this magistrate and the technical experts involved will be able to get to the bottom of this case; I appeal to the courts to speedily finish this case.”

Concluding on the matter, he said that if the magistrate finds that there is a lack of regulations that might have in some way contributed to Sofia’s death, there is nothing stopping the magistrate “from adding this in her verbal process.”

Asked about Sofia’s family, who are also pushing for a magisterial inquiry, he mentioned that he had the chance to meet them. He added that although they do not agree on everything, he understands their position.

However, he said that he is angry at the PN for creating a political issue out of such a sensitive case.

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