The Malta Independent 6 June 2023, Tuesday
View E-Paper

‘Why is Abela going to the NAO today when their damning report was published in 2020?’ PN MPs ask

Andrew Izzo Clarke Wednesday, 22 March 2023, 17:41 Last update: about 3 months ago

The PN on Wednesday questioned Prime Minister Robert Abela’s intentions after he requested the Auditor General’s intervention in the recently-decided Steward case, when a damning report by the same office was published and is publicly available since as far back as 2020.

PN MPs Darren Carabott, David Agius, and Graham Bencini spoke about the first and second NAO reports, published in 2020 and 2021 respectively, which discussed the tendering process and the contractual framework.


“It’s obvious, except to the Prime Minister, that these facts have already been spoken about publicly, as journalists had already revealed the dirt surrounding this project,” Carabott said.

“So after hearing the testimony published in 2020 and 2021, what was Robert Abela waiting for to stop the financing of this project?”

“At the beginning of 2018, the opposition wrote to the NAO to investigate the Vitals deal, and later on in the year, then-leader of the PN Adrian Delia opened a court case,” Carabott added.

Delia’s court case is what resulted in the hospitals deal ultimately being annulled, with the magistrate finding that the deal was “fraudulent.”

Bencini spoke about the first report, published in July 2020, which concerns the tender process.

“In the report, the NAO makes it clear that the government had a premeditated agreement with Vitals before the call for tenders was issued,” he said.

Bencini went on to say that “the NAO said that the Ministry responsible for health was not involved in this process and it was the Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi who was coordinating government and company efforts, even though this deal didn’t fall within his ministerial remit.”

“Further, and contrary to what former disgraced Prime Minister Joseph Muscat claimed, the Cabinet was not involved in this process according to the NAO,” said Bencini.

By way of summarizing, Bencini said that the “report published in July 2020 tells us that everything was orchestrated beforehand, Vitals had no experience in the health sector, due diligence was terrible, and the risk fell entirely on the government and therefore on the Maltese people.”

Agius then spoke about the second report, which was published in 2021, and concerns a review of the contractual framework surrounding the concessions.

“If you start reading the report, you realize that the information requested by the NAO from the government and VGH was severely limited,” said Agius.

“When Konrad Mizzi, the Energy Minister, was asked to testify to the NAO, he never testified at all. This represents a total lack of respect towards the authorities, and towards the NAO,” Agius said.

“Why was it only Mizzi that was orchestrating it all when the health sector didn’t fall under his remit? Who was there behind him to allow him to do all this?”

When it comes to documentation itself, “the negotiating committee between the government and Vitals didn’t keep minutes of their meetings, an oversight that the NAO has decried as a “severe failure,” Agius said.

“This Office is of the understanding that failure to consult [the Ministry for Finance] MFIN regarding a concession conservatively valued at €4,000,000,000 is a gross shortcoming in terms of the financial management of public funds,” Agius quoted from the report.

“This was intentioned to fail from the beginning,” Agius concluded.

“If the intention of the Prime Minister is really genuine, then he would condemn, like the PN, the collusion between Vitals and the government, and would take all appropriate steps to bring back all the money that was siphoned off,” Carabott said.

When asked whether he thinks the third report will detail the whole truth, Carabott said that “the truth has emerged already with the fraudulence that has been detailed in the two existing reports.”

“If the stem is rotten, then what can be said of the branches?” Carabott questioned. 

Carabott also added that “these reports emerged thanks to the request for an investigation by the opposition while the government remained inexistent.”

  • don't miss