What a mess!

The truth is that the agreement with Steward was a joke. After Vitals, the Maltese government should have taken the hospitals back. The fact that they did not, shows that something was not quite correct.

I still have to come to terms with the narrative being played out by government about the Steward and Vitals great train robbery. 

Perplexed would probably be a polite way of putting it. 

We either say that Steward took us for a ride, or else we say that Steward were good guys who spent the money they received in a correct manner. 

It kicked off this week, with former prime minister Joseph Muscat saying that the Steward fiasco left the government defrauded not the public.

Sometimes I wonder whether Muscat has lost his sense of proportion. Those who know him, can only attribute his rashness and clumsiness to his fear of being singled out in the magisterial inquiry. That would send shockwaves in the Labour Party.

Then on Thursday, we witnessed a parliamentary debate that ended with a walkout and a protest in front of parliament.

It was showtime for Bernard Grech and Adrian Delia. But it was to be expected from an Opposition party in search of a cause.  Anyone in their right senses would have done the same thing.

Prime Minister Robert Abela has stood his ground but is now arguing that Steward did carry out part of their contractual commitments. It jarred with the argument that the government would claim back monies from Steward if it were proven so by National Audit Office.

The truth is that the agreement with Steward was a joke.  After Vitals, the Maltese government should have taken the hospitals back. The fact that they did not, shows that something was not quite correct.

And Steward’s CEO Armin Ernst who was the CEO for Vitals knew all too well that their Malta operation was a messy affair. He states this in the appeal.

In an email that he writes to Keith Schembri, which is available in court documents, he confides that this was the “messiest affair” that he had ever been involved in. The fact that he was CEO of Vitals and later recruited by Steward, says more about Steward than Ernst.

I have met Armin Ernst on several occasions. 

He comes across as a man who gives the impression of being very uncomfortable in his position.  

It was at the beginning of the takeover of Steward that we met. It was a hotel in St George’s Bay. The conversation was disjointed.

I remember that we left the meeting unimpressed.

Ernst has always been very careful to disassociate himself from the Vitals period. As if he had nothing to do with the first bid which saw the two con men, Ram Tumuluri and Mark Pawley, walk away with millions. Yet he was effectively the CEO at Vitals, when the company was a corrupt and unjustified recipient of tax payer’s money.

That he was taken up as CEO by Steward is strange.

The truth is that Ernst, a German and doctor by profession, has always served his directors and shareholders first and assured that their primary interest, which happens to be profit, are seen to before every other interest.

This explains why there was no quantum leap in the medical services offered by Steward when they took over the Vitals contract. Indeed, many of the staff that worked there simply changed their name tags, nothing else.  And there was little new injection of human resources.

In fact, the Maltese health authorities are moving in without any big tremors.

Steward is now trying to shift the blame on the Maltese government. While government has major faults, the company is not without responsibility.

Steward has argued that the Maltese courts are biased and unfair and that the rule of law has been put into question. The company also claimed all this will have a negative impact on foreign direct investment in Malta.

Some local financiers, or shall I say apologists, have echoed this argument.

But this is complete bullshit. If Steward’s idea of foreign direct investment is this kind of shady and pitiable takeover of public services financed by tax payers with no private injection of funds, then we really should wave our middle finger to foreign direct investment (FDA).

But if that is not enough, Steward has warned that it will institute SLAPP procedures against MaltaToday. This very week Steward officials boasted with associates that they would commence legal procedures against this newspaper in a Madrid court.

This means the whole saga will take on a new dimension.

It is kind of rich coming from a company that finds its roots in the US and whose CEO brags about the need for the rule of law and upholding democratic principles to try and crush independent journalism.

To hell with Steward and to hell with all these silly excuses that Steward offered a service and added quality to our health project.

They were part of a diabolical plan to allow a select few to enrich themselves. No one can cite good reason to give away our health service to these crooks and pay for their daylight robbery.