State Advocate says court action sought by Opposition leader is ‘contradictory’

The State Advocate files judicial reply to Opposition’s court request related to the botched hospitals contract, insists the legal action is intended only to prolong public controversy

The State Advocate has filed a judicial reply in court proceedings initiated against him by Opposition leader Bernard Grech and MP Adrian Delia
The State Advocate has filed a judicial reply in court proceedings initiated against him by Opposition leader Bernard Grech and MP Adrian Delia

Court proceedings filed by Opposition MPs over the botched hospitals contract are only intended to keep the controversy alive, the State Advocate said on Wednesday.

In his reaction to the court case instituted by Opposition leader Bernard Grech and Adrian Delia last December, State Advocate Chris Soler said the request was “contradictory” and “superfluous”.

Grech and Delia filed a court case in which they asked the court to order the State Advocate to take the necessary legal action to recoup any money owed to the State after the Steward hospitals deal was cancelled.

But in a seven-page reply filed today, the State Advocate said the request by the MPs was contradictory. The MPs argued the State Advocate could act independently but then proceeded to ask the court to impinge on this independence by ordering the office to take legal action.

The State Advocate rejected the assertion that the law empowered him to act of his own accord as described in the request but added the MPs were asking the court to “usurp” the duties of the executive and grant the State Advocate powers he did not have at law.

Soler said the government with the help of the State Advocate and other private lawyers was defending its interests in arbitration proceedings underway in the International Chamber of Commerce.

“The filing of the court case does not help [government’s cause] and can undermine and prejudice the Maltese State in the [arbitration] proceedings, and this was done solely to keep the public controversy alive,” the State Advocate said, calling on the court to throw out the case.

Last October, the Appeals Court confirmed the judgment of the Court of First Instance that cancelled the hospitals contract awarded by government to Vitals Global Healthcare and later transferred to Steward Healthcare. The Appeals Court said there had been collusion between government officials and the concessionaire and the company reneged on its contractual obligations to carry out the agreed investments.

The Opposition has claimed that the government should recover the €400 million paid to the private companies over the duration of the contract. The government insists this was money that would have had to be paid just the same to cover health workers’ wages and medical services.

However, the government has also said it would take all necessary action to recover any funds it is owed for services that were never rendered.

The judicial reply was signed by State Advocate Chris Soler and lawyers James D’agostino and Julian Farrugia from the State Advocate’s office.