The Malta Independent 29 May 2024, Wednesday
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‘Let the institutions work’, Abela says on Steward and Joseph Muscat

Semira Abbas Shalan Tuesday, 23 May 2023, 13:19 Last update: about 2 years ago

Prime Minister Robert Abela has reiterated that the institutions must be left to work, and it will not be him to impose prejudice or pressure on decisions which need to be taken by these same institutions.

Abela was replying to questions by the media on Tuesday, on the third report of the NAO on the three hospitals’ concession, as well as the pending inquiry on a corruption probe into the hospitals’ deal, which has renewed the scrutiny former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was put under.

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Abela had said that the report confirmed that his government worked differently than that of Muscat’s. Asked if he has denounced Muscat, Abela reaffirmed that the institutions need to be allowed to work.

He said that while he cannot comment on details due to confidentiality obligations, government has already taken steps to recover the money given to Stewards Healthcare, maintaining a clear and strong position in local courts as well as the ongoing international arbitration process.

“After the court sentence, we rejected the termination notice by Steward’s which included their own conditions, and we took the hospitals back to the public,” Abela continued.

“I also wrote to the Auditor General, to show that I want to move in the principle of transparency and that I have nothing to hide. I asked him to establish if there were discrepancies between what Stewards gave in services and provision, and what government paid them,” he said.

Abela said that if discrepancies are found in the results, this will be added to the pending requests in the international arbitration process.

Muscat has also questioned the impartiality of the inquiring magistrate into the hospitals’ deal, Gabriella Vella, asking her to step down from the inquiry.

“If I had to make a comment on the impartiality or partiality of the inquiring magistrate, I would be pushing the limits of what is expected of me. That is a decision that the magistrate in question must decide for themselves,” Abela said.

Asked if the Labour Party should distance itself from Muscat, Abela continued to reiterate that there is an ongoing process from the inquiring magistrate, saying that whoever is found alleged before that process has his own rights by the law.

Abela said that the Opposition Leader is spinning the content of the NAO report, as the Auditor General did not feel the need to call Abela for his input.

He continued that the PN Leader clearly did not understand the report, as government after 2020 has made analysis of the contracts and took stock of what it was tied to by the contract.

Abela said that discussions were all made in the presence of civil services, and a team of lawyers, and the final decision taken not to sign and amend the agreements was a joint decision between government and Stewards.

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