The Malta Independent 17 June 2024, Monday
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Grech gives Police Commissioner 3 days to take action on hospitals fraud before going back to court

Semira Abbas Shalan Sunday, 29 October 2023, 15:15 Last update: about 9 months ago

Nationalist Party Leader Bernard Grech gave Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa three days to take clear action following the Court of Appeal decision on the hospitals privatisation deal before the PN goes back to court.

Speaking at a national protest called by the PN outside Castille, Grech said that when Gafa said that he will not act until the magisterial inquiry into the case is concluded, it was equal to saying that he will not do anything.

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Grech said that the Appeals Court judgement confirmed that Gafa as well as the Attorney General failed in doing their jobs, whilst millions of taxpayers’ money continued to be stolen.

In his speech on Sunday, Grech said that the truth is the best weapon the public has, and government has tried to control this through propaganda in state broadcasting, a Police Commissioner with his hands tied, and an AG who is absent in action.

Grech named the “actors” in this tragedy, namely former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Prime Minister Robert Abela, and even Health Minister Chris Fearne, who was Parliamentary Secretary for Health before he was Minister.

Fearne had said that the hospitals deal was being done behind his back, and Grech said that this was not true, as he was Parliamentary Secretary.

“The truth will win, even if it takes long to win,” Grech said, adding that the amount stolen was over and above the €400 million, and it was also not true that this included workers’ salaries.

Grech accused Abela of lying when saying that the €400 million given to Steward was in fact lower, or that it included workers’ wages, or else that this money translated into healthcare services.

He said that the Auditor General confirmed in its report that between 2016 and 2021, the governments of Joseph Muscat and Robert Abela gave Vitals/Steward €267million up until he concluded in his report.

Grech said that when, in Parliament, the PN presented a judicial protest in order to stop money being given, after 2021, government continued to give €70 million and €80 million.

Additionally, up till 2023, Grech said that worker salaries amounted to a further €188 million, and the report also said that had the PN not opened a court case, these contracts would still be in effect today, amounting to possibly billions stolen.

“€400 million is how much L-Istrina collects over 80 years,” Grech said, accusing the government of stealing from the vulnerable.

He continued that the court said that government, the AG and the State Advocate failed in their duties towards the country, and that the PN took the initiative in the interest of the country.

Grech said that Abela and his friends were complicit in the theft of the three hospitals.

He said that the word “collusion” in the 99-page court sentence is mentioned 18 times. The word “fraud” is mentioned 50 times, while the words “fraud and fraudulent” were mentioned 80 times.

“You’ve stolen patients’ dignity; there are wards in hospital without windows, you have to wait hours in the emergency room because there is no more beds,” Grech said, adding that this money could have been invested in the hospitals.

Grech said that the PN presented a motion in Parliament to vote for the return of the €400 million, and government “ran away from this, did not want to vote, because they do not bring the country’s interests at the forefront.”

Grech invited the public to look out for the country’s interests, that Malta and Gozo depend on it to bring back its integrity, environment, a good economy, and a better and stronger future.

PN MP Adrian Delia opened the protest, reminding the public that the 23 October 2023, the day of the appeals decision, marked eight years since former Health Minister Konrad Mizzi gave the three hospitals to “fraudulent foreigners.”

He said that a year before that, an MoU was signed on 10 October 2014, which allowed then-Vitals to receive information from government while undergoing requests for proposals during the tendering process in the concession.

“The timeline itself is a testimony that Vitals did not truly want to work for three state-of-the-art hospitals, as government had already decided to give privileged information in an irregular manner,” Delia said.

He said that the court’s appeal sentence clearly said that there was collusion between both parties, and those who had to defend the country’s interests, gave extensions so that the agreement continued to be hidden, and government continued paying Vitals.

“Joseph Muscat tells us there were hidden vested interests, Chris Fearne says everything was done behind his back, Robert Abela points at those before him and says it was not hi. Then who had to defend the country’s interests?” Delia said.

He condemned government for saying that this money translated into services given in the healthcare centres, as the workers there continued to work as they always had.

Delia said that government’s reaction was not to find remedies whilst under the contract, but continued to pay them millions.

“Government must wake up and not remain complicit, and return back the €400 million,” Delia said.

He said that the court of appeal condemned government of being responsible of the biggest fraud the country has suffered, and that the Prime Minister did nothing up until the sentence was decided, when Steward had also already presented its termination notice.

“Instead of coming to Parliament and apologizes and admits wrongdoing, instead of showing remorse to those who had to pay millions from their taxes, Robert Abela remained hardheaded and tried to laugh at and lie to the public,” Delia said, adding that Abela looked out for the interests of Vitals/Stewards, and betrayed the nation.

President of the Chamber of SMEs Paul Abela said in a video message that the recent SME Barometer showed that 80% of businesses believe that the country is going towards the wrong direction, and more than 40% are worried about corruption and the route the economy will take, as well as the uncertainty of future investments in Malta.

Secretary General for UHM Voice of the Workers Josef Vella said that government has not shown any remorse on the damage it has caused.

The project for the hospitals, which was meant to be the “envy of the world,” not only did it fail, but it cost the public €400 million, which could have been invested in the renovation of the Gozo hospital, latest technologies and equipment, and more infrastructure for hospitals.

Vella said that over €500 million was stolen from the people, and the service kept being given by the dedicated workers which were not given the strength they needed.

Vella said that one of the UHM proposals for tomorrow’s budget is to remove tax from the Cost of Living Adjustment, which would save €30 million in the pockets of workers.

He warned government not to have the face to, in light of inflation, continue to tax COLA.

Vella compared corruption to drug addiction, where one spends everything they have just to break themselves, and when they accept the problem, they must start from scratch and take up all their energy and money.

“Do not confuse corruption with customer care services. You are paying for the corruption from your pockets,” Vella addressed the public.

Director General of the Malta Employers’ Association Joseph Farrugia in a video message said that this scandal has shocked society in its manner and scale, and more and more people are giving up from the idea that we could have an honest politics.

He said that this has had an impact on health services, as the millions could have been invested in the country’s healthcare, especially in a situation where Malta has a growing, and ageing population.

Farrugia said that this money was thrown away, and could have also been invested on the country’s electricity distribution network.

“There needs to be an honest explanation of what happened to the public. There needs to be justice for those who used the public’s trust for their interest, as well as adequate structures which guarantee that these large scandals do not happen again,” Farrugia said.

President of the Medical Association of Malta (MAM) Martin Balzan also said that the €400 million could have gone for the good of the patients, yet they disappeared.

Balzan said that there was supposed to be a new hospital in Gozo, maintenance in Karin Grech hospital which has remained the same for a decade, and the renovation of St Luke’s hospital, a “historical building” which has been left abandoned.

Balzan said that there is no space in Mater Dei Hospital, where the canteen was turned into wards, with limited toilet facilities for patients, and no privacy.

He also said that there is a long outpatient waiting list, as the plans for a new outpatients has not yet started, and the money for that infrastructure went elsewhere. He condemned Abela for saying that this money included workers’ wages as well as translated into services given.

 

Balzan said that neither was the mental health hospital built, and that the MAM expected that Malta comes first, and the €400 million to be returned for more investment towards healthcare.


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