The Malta Independent 14 July 2024, Sunday
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‘Ask him’: PM shrugs off Muscat comment on annulled hospitals' deal

Wednesday, 25 October 2023, 13:40 Last update: about 10 months ago

Prime Minister Robert Abela this morning shrugged off his predecessor’s reaction to the court of appeal judgment confirming the annulment of the hospitals deal, telling journalists that they should ask him (Muscat) what he meant when he said that the deal failed because of “hidden vested interests”.

On Wednesday, Muscat again defended the hospitals’ deal which was rescinded by the courts, saying he always believed that the agreement could bring numerous benefits and adding that the full realisation of the project was hindered by “various challenges” which he did not name.

Asked about Muscat’s reaction, Abela said would not go into his interpretation of what Muscat said. But, like Muscat, Abela defended the deal, pointing out instances in the court’s ruling that speak about the work that was carried out at the hospitals since they were taken over by the private sector,

He said that the court of appeal took a different stance and confirmed that the private companies had good intentions, whilst also adding that the court also confirmed that its directors together with shareholders are not responsible “of committing some criminal act”.

He said that the PN had accused the government of being “Steward’s lawyers”, but the government’s main aim has always been to defend the public interest.

He cheekily remarked that he was satisfied that the opposition did not “accuse the court of being Steward’s lawyers, despite the court reflecting what I said a few months ago”.

The PM said that the government has stood by its decision when it was approached by Stewards to update the agreements.

 “You (addressing Steward) wore VGH’s shoes; you knew what you were getting yourselves into, honour the conditions that you are tied with and also honour the contractual conditions,” he said.

Steward had taken over the reins of the concession from VGH, but their bid to have the conditions changed was always rejected by the government.

Abela said that the government took action to recoup the money it had passed on to Steward. But it was a lie to say that €400 million had been wasted, because most of this money had gone into services that were provided for the duration of the contract.

The government, he said, will seek to recover any money that was not spent by Steward and, even if it results that all the money was spent, will make sure that the expenditure was for the benefit of Maltese patients.

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