Edward Scicluna ‘not impressed’ by VGH chief’s €5 million bonus

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna says audited accounts show that public funds paid to Vitals financed salaries and consumables, expenses the government would still have to fork out

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna
Finance Minister Edward Scicluna

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna was unimpressed by the news that Ram Tumuluri, the ex-CEO of Vitals Global Healthcare, paid himself €5 million as the company folded up.

Scicluna was replying in Parliament to questions put to him by Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi on the revelation published by MaltaToday on Wednesday.

Tumuluri’s bonus was part of a condition in his contract: €5 million would be paid out to him on his third anniversary at the helm of VGH. That same year, the VGH concession was paid €75 million to run the three public hospitals, incurring over €94 million in expenses, generating losses of some €18 million.

READ ALSO: Vitals Global Healthcare boss Ram Tumuluri paid himself €5 million bonus

“We will not be impressed to know that Steward were operating at a loss when we learn that Tumuluri got a €5 million bonus. That’s their business,” Scicluna told Parliament.

The Finance Minister said the audited accounts published by Steward Health Care showed that public money passed on to VGH went to finance salaries, wages and consumables, which the government would have spent in any case.

Scicluna appeared to distance himself from the privatisation deal that saw the transfer of three public hospitals – Gozo general, St Luke’s and Karin Grech – to the obscure company VGH. The concession was later transferred to Steward Health Care after VGH went belly up.

Scicluna insisted the Opposition MPs knew how the government procurement process worked and that the multi-million contract did not go through his ministry.

The hospitals privatisation deal was handled by Projects Malta, an entity that fell under then health minister Konrad Mizzi’s remit.

“If I tell you that I’ve never met Tumuluri, I’m not saying anything special because due diligence checks, waivers, contracts, meetings and so on passed through the ministry in question and did not go through the finance ministry. All of this is legal,” Scicluna said.

Asked by Opposition MP Karol Aquilina whether he agreed that such an “obscene contract” be terminated, a visibly uncomfortable Scicluna was reticent and insisted that he had already answered the question.

Labour MP Anthony Agius Decelis then interjected with a question of his own and asked the minister to comment about the credit ratings that Malta had been granted in recent months.

The Opposition has been calling on the government to cancel the privatisation deal, insisting that the private operators did not fulfil their side of the bargain.

Steward Health Care have asked for a renegotiation of the contract, demanding more money from the government.

Incoming Prime Minister Robert Abela appointed a committee of experts to review the deal and has not excluded anything.

READ MORE: Konrad Mizzi waived €9 million guarantee on hospitals concession