[WATCH] Opposition motion to cancel hospitals deal defeated

Parliament votes to amend the Opposition's hospitals motion, defeating the original motion to cancel the Steward deal

An Opposition motion to cancel the Steward hospitals deal was defeated in Parliament on Thursday
An Opposition motion to cancel the Steward hospitals deal was defeated in Parliament on Thursday
19:23 The House then voted on the amended motion itself, with 35 for and 29 against. This means the Opposition's original motion for the cancellation of the Steward contract has been defeated Massimo Costa
19:21 Parliament votes 35 for and 29 against the amendments to the original motion Massimo Costa
19:10 Voting on the government's amendment to the original Opposition motion is now taking place. A division has been requested, which means that each "Yes" or "No" vote will be counted Massimo Costa
19:10 "This is a vote for the Maltese people, for those who truly choose Malta," Delia says as he concludes Massimo Costa
19:09 An energised Delia says the Opposition would commit itself to fighting Steward together with the government Massimo Costa
19:09 Delia calls for Parliament to condemn Mizzi's behaviour which was against the national interest; for a Police Commissioner who prosecutes those who have stolen from the people Massimo Costa
19:06 Malta is paying €6 million to Steward a month, the PN leader says. "But what do you care?" he asks the government Massimo Costa
19:05 Delia now turns to government MPs: "Before any of you vote, I want you to think about those who elected you. Ask yourself: should we vote together to fight Steward and to have the hospitals returned to the people?" Massimo Costa
19:03 "Prime Minister, you were the lawyer who signed the contract while the hospitals case was in court, so that if the court decides to terminate the contract, Steward will still be paid," Delia says Massimo Costa
19:02 The PN leader calls out Robert Abela for trying to shift the blame for a contract which the government had signed onto the Opposition. "The government signed the contract, it is unsure about how it should be interpreted, and instead wants us to take the blame" Massimo Costa
19:01 Instead Mizzi decided to insert an escape clause whereby Steward would be given €100 million should the contract be cancelled, Delia emphasises Massimo Costa
19:00 There was also a clause allowing the government to take back the hospitals in case of breach of contract, and that it would not be liable for any debts. But Mizzi, in August 2019, decided to scrap these clauses, Delia says Massimo Costa
18:59 Eventually, Steward took over the concession, Delia says. "They at the time had a performance guarantee - which meant the government could charge them €9 million if they didn't perform their obligations." But Konrad Mizzi decided to waive the guarantee on the hospitals concession Massimo Costa
18:55 Vitals, which had to inject €180 million, ended up not providing any funds. And the government instead kept issuing millions in payments, Delia says Massimo Costa
18:54 He asks a rhetorical question: "During this pandemic, who do you want to lead us? Robert Abela, Chris Fearne, or some quack fraudster? The government had chosen the fraudster - Ram Tumuluri" Massimo Costa
18:53 Nexia BT had been chosen to report about Vitals, Delia says. This found that the company had no medical experience, no funds and had not been given any bank loans. Vitals had promised it would inject €180 million into the company Massimo Costa
18:51 Delia gives an account of the saga. "In October 2014, Vitals was opened as a company. The next day, it agreed with the government to take the hospitlas concession when the call for proposals had not even been issued yet." Massimo Costa
18:48 Delia says that Abela is trying to blame the Opposition for the escape clause which Konrad Mizzi negotiated with Steward Massimo Costa
18:46 Because of Konrad Mizzi's changed to the original contract's clauses, the government could no longer take back the hospitals in a situation of national emergency, Delia says Massimo Costa
18:44 "Instead they instructed the AG to defend Vitals against the interest of the Maltese and Gozitan people," Delia says Massimo Costa
18:43 Delia says that if the PM feels the Steward contract should be cancelled, he should join him (Delia) in the court case he had filed against Vitals Massimo Costa
18:43 It is now Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia's time to speak Massimo Costa
18:42 The Prime Minister also speaks about the five-times higher than estimated costs for Mater Dei. "This is the Opposition which wants to tell us how to run our hospitals," Abela says as he concludes Massimo Costa
18:38 Had a final decision been taken now, especially if this was to cancel the deal, it would not have been in the national interest because of the fact that there is a pandemic right now, Abela says Massimo Costa
18:37 Abela insists that, had it not been for COVID-19, the government's decision on Steward would by now have been reached Massimo Costa
18:36 Abela asks what would happen should the Steward contract be terminated right now. "What would happen to our elderly? What would happen to those at Karin Grech." He says that he is not excluding that the discussion with Steward in the future could lead to the contract being cancelled Massimo Costa
18:34 Turning to Adrian Delia, Abela tells the PN leader not to be conditioned by those who intended to "drive you into the wall" Massimo Costa
18:33 The Opposition would have disrupted the government's aim to not accept to pay Steward the €100 million, Abela says - the government disagrees with Steward's interpretation of the escape clause Massimo Costa
18:31 The Prime Minister insists that even if the Steward contract is cancelled, the government would not accept to pay the €100 million Massimo Costa
18:30 Abela says the Opposition are condemning the people to pay €100 million Massimo Costa
18:30 Challenged by some Opposition MPs that they in fact had no access to the Steward contract and so could not consult it, Abela said that they could request access to it Massimo Costa
18:29 "Instead of reading the contract, you tabled a motion based on what was reported in a newspaper," Abela tells the Opposition Massimo Costa
18:28 Speaker Anglu Farrugia dismisses this, saying Abela wasn't reading from a contract. A somewhat amused Abela clarifies that he was actually reading from the Opposition's own motion Massimo Costa
18:28 PN MP David Agius interject. He says that it appears Abela is reading from a contract. The House rules specify that such a contract should therefore be tabled, Agius says Massimo Costa
18:27 The motion refers the fact that the government would have to pay €100 million if the contract is terminated, whatever the reason for this. But Abela says the government is insisting with Steward on another interpretation of this escape clause. The Opposition is now almost acting like a lawyer for Steward when it comes to the clause, Abela says Massimo Costa
18:25 Abela says the Oppositions' motion is intended to damage the national interest Massimo Costa
18:25 It is now Prime Minister Robert Abela's turn to speak. He says that whatever he will say today does will not condition the final decision of the government on Steward Massimo Costa
18:23 "This is your last chance to remedy this... When the facts become known, and they will, it will be useless trying to justify why you never spoke up" Massimo Costa
18:22 Said tells government MPs from Gozo: "Colleagues, you know this is theft [...] This is a dangerous game playing with the lives of Gozitans" Massimo Costa
18:19 "Vitals and Steward took the money - over €300 million - and did not fulfil any of their obligations," PN MP Said says Massimo Costa
18:19 Some people had become millionaires because of the hospitals deal, Said insists Massimo Costa
18:18 "As an elected MP from the Gozitan constituency, I have long-said that through this deal the government sold the health of the Maltese people," Chris Said Massimo Costa
18:18 Chris Said says government MPs are also convinced the Steward deal should have never happened and that it was only meant to make some people rich Massimo Costa
18:17 The Opposition wants to see that the hospitals are returned to the public, Grech adds, before turning over to fellow PN MP Chris Said Massimo Costa
18:15 Grech says Vitals had only €1,200 in capital assets, when it had committed to invest €41 million from its own funds Massimo Costa
18:15 The government entered into the deal with Vitals when the company had no experience in the health centre, when nobody knew who the UBO was, and when the company was a shell company based in the BVI, Grech says Massimo Costa
18:12 Some of the government MPs who spoke in the House today confirmed that they were worried about the contract, PN MP Grech says Massimo Costa
18:12 "Unfortunately [the Steward contract] is one such project," Grech says Massimo Costa
18:11 PN MP Claudio Grech addresses the House. He says it is very rare that a government's decision is fundamentally wrong, from start to finish Massimo Costa
18:10 "Minister Scicluna had the last opportunity to clear his name today. But he didn't," de Marco says Massimo Costa
18:10 De Marco says Finance Minister Edward Scicluna is to blame for not ensuring the deal was a good one Massimo Costa
18:08 The Steward deal is the classic case of how a public procurement contract should not be devised, and a classic case of how to make a secretive MOU for an escape clause, de Marco says Massimo Costa
18:06 PN MP Mario de Marco now speaks. "There is nobody except the government which is convinced that the contract with Steward is nothing but barefaced theft from the people," he says, as he notes that the concession will cost the Maltese tax-payer €2 billion over 30 years Massimo Costa
18:05 All money being given to Steward are for salaries of doctors and nurses and on other things necessary for the hospitals, the Finance Minster says Massimo Costa
18:04 "It is not true government is giving something extra," Scicluna says Massimo Costa
18:04 Scicluna says that "every euro" being spent on Steward are taken into account in the government's financial estimates Massimo Costa
18:00 Scicluna also turns to the Mater Dei project during the Nationalist administration, remarking it had cost many times more than estimated Massimo Costa
17:58 "The Opposition is putting the tax-payer at risk of being liable for millions to Steward... and is disrupting the work of the hospitals..." Scicluna says Massimo Costa
17:57 He accuses the Opposition of trying to score points during these difficult times Massimo Costa
17:57 Finance Minister Edward Scicluna now addresses the House. He speaks of the unprecedented and surreal times brought on by COVID-19 Massimo Costa
17:57 MPs today have a chance to repair the damage done to the people through the hospitals deal, Marlene Farrugia says Massimo Costa
17:54 PD MP Marlene Farrugia is speaking. She says Vitals were involved in the deal because of the corrupt clique of Mizzi, Muscat and Schembri Massimo Costa
17:53 Azzopardi continues about the Montenegro link. He says people will understand why Joseph Muscat had called an early election in 2017, and why after Labour winning it, orders had been issued for Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder to go ahead Massimo Costa
17:51 He also challenges the government to deny that Vitals' owes €16 million in VAT Massimo Costa
17:51 There is a link between Montenegro and the corrupt hospitals contract, Azzopardi says Massimo Costa
17:50 "We will soon hear a lot about Montenegro and the corruption of Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri and Joseph Muscat" Massimo Costa
17:50 Jason Azzopardi speaks about "the link with Montenegro". "Vitals was a money-laundering machine," he says Massimo Costa
17:48 He refers to reports by Daphne Caruana Galizia on Vitals' Ram Tumuluri, who she had said acted as a front for corruption Massimo Costa
17:48 Had MaltaToday not revealed the escape clause which would require the government to pay €100 million to Steward, the people would not know about this corrupt, secretive aspect of Konrad Mizzi's deal, Azzopardi says Massimo Costa
17:47 It is now PN MP Jason Azzopardi's turn to speak. Azzopardi lambasts the government's amendments to the motion Massimo Costa
17:45 The government's amendments seek to remedy the motion's shortcomings in this regard, the Justice Minister says Massimo Costa
17:44 Zammit Lewis says that, as it is, the motion prejudices the ongoing magisterial inquiry on the hospitals deal Massimo Costa
17:39 The amendments also say that the government has made in clear with Steward that it must fulfill all its obligations, and that it is evaluating the situation and would take any necessary decisions in the interest of the Maltese people Massimo Costa
17:37 The substance of the amendment is that the government wants the motion to note that the Opposition's motion came at an inopportune and insensitive time - because of the COVID-19 pandemic - and also while legal proceedings concerning the Steward contract are still ongoing Massimo Costa
17:28 Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis is now bringing forward an amendment to the Opposition motion Massimo Costa
17:26 Aquilina says it is now Prime Minister Robert Abela's chance to "choose between the diabolic pact and the good of the Maltese people". He calls on Fearne to do the same Massimo Costa
17:25 Aquilina urges government MPs to place first and foremost the interest of Maltese and Gozitan patients Massimo Costa
17:24 PN MP Karol Aquilina's turn to speak comes. Aquilina says all MPs had to today choose whether to be in favour of the theft from the people by foreigners, or to be in favour of the Maltese people Massimo Costa
17:21 Buttigieg says former PM Joseph Muscat had promised that all three hospitals would be transformed to be in the same class as Mater Dei Massimo Costa
17:20 It is now PN MP Claudette Buttigieg's time to speak. She says the hospitals contract is the biggest scandal of the government. She also remarks that Konrad Mizzi is not present in the House. "God knows where he is. We don't even know if he is still in our country" Massimo Costa
17:19 Former health minister Konrad Mizzi is conspicuous by his absence. He is not present in Parliament as the motion is debated Massimo Costa
17:18 Fearne mentions the court case filed by Adrian Delia about Steward. He says that the rule of law demands that Delia wait for the case to take its course before asking for the Steward contract to be cancelled Massimo Costa
17:16 Fearne says that the Steward contract is signed and it is what it is. "We expect that Steward provide what they are obliged to in the contract - nothing more, nothing less. And if the Opposition really wants the best for Gozitan hospitals, it must be with the government on this" Massimo Costa
17:15 The costs, Fearne says, are comparable Massimo Costa
17:15 Fearne insists that any payments to Steward had to be compared to what the government would have had to pay to provide medicines, carry out tests, pay workers salaries, and so on. "So you have to compared what we are paying to Steward and how much government would pay if Steward were not there" Massimo Costa
17:14 Chris Said continues with his comments, leading to Speaker Anglu Farrugia to demand that he stop interrupting Fearne or risk being asked to leave Massimo Costa
17:13 Fearne speaks about the prices being paid to Steward. He says the cost of Steward's services have to be compared with what the government would have been spending itself to run the hospitals Massimo Costa
17:10 Said asks Fearne to speak about the motion itself not about Mater Dei Massimo Costa
17:09 Speaker Anglu Farrugia warns MPs not to raise their voices, as the debate heats up Massimo Costa
17:08 An irritated Chris Said intervenes, with the PN MP saying the original estimated cost of Mater Dei was based on a much smaller hospital Massimo Costa
17:07 The Opposition's motion, Fearne says, is claiming that Steward is not giving the government value for money. Fearne remarks that an NAO report issued on Wednesday into the Mater Dei Hospital project which concluded that hospital ended up costing eight times more than expected Massimo Costa
17:05 "Let's be honest and fair... We had Steward's help during the COVID situation," Fearne says Massimo Costa
17:04 The government had found Steward available to help during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, and had supplied more beds for the ITU in Gozo hospital and at Karin Grech Massimo Costa
17:03 Fearne insists "Steward are a serious company". He says it is evident neither the government nor the Opposition were against private companies or against Public Private Partnerships Massimo Costa
17:02 The Health Minister says he travelled to the US to see the work Steward was doing. "In the US, Steward offer a good health system. They are obviously a private company. But are we saying we are not in favour of a private practice in Malta? I don't think so, or else you'd have tabled a motion against other local private providers, such as St James or St Anne's" Massimo Costa
17:01 Fearne continues with his account of how the hospitals saga developed. He says Steward, which eventually replaced Vitals, was a major US company which ran many hospitals in America and provided medical services for 12 million patients a year Massimo Costa
16:59 As Farrugia continues his protestations, a frustrated Fearne says he will leave unless he is allowed to speak without interruption Massimo Costa
16:57 Farrugia calls for the protection of the House against Fearne's accusation. Fearne insists the saga started in 2013 when Farrugia and then education minister Evarist Bartolo held discussions with Barts Medical School in London Massimo Costa
16:56 Some commotion arises when Fearne says that the hospitals saga started when PD MP Godfrey Farrugia was Labour health minister. This prompts an irate Farrugia to protest, saying he had nothing to do with the deal Massimo Costa
16:53 Malta's COVID-19 death rate is less than 1%, compared to the 8% rate in other countries, which shows that Malta and Gozo have a strong health service, he says. "The Opposition's motion must be framed within the context of the success in the Maltese health system" Massimo Costa
16:52 Deputy PM and Health Minister Chris Fearne is now speaking. He starts by thanking all health workers for their efforts during the COVID-19 crisis. The results, till now, are encouraging, he says, both in terms of the high number of recoveries and the low death rate compared to other countries Massimo Costa
16:49 Steward had also not put in place any infrastructural investments, Spiteri says. The US company is only interested in lengthening its target dates. It also enjoys a contract where, instead of being penalised for its shortcomings, the tax-payer would have to pay €100 million should its contract be terminated Massimo Costa
16:49 Vitals - a company with no experience or financial security - Spiteri says, had not carried out any improvements or infrastructural investments while it held the concession, he said. "A contract was made with a company which it seems was almost inteded to fail" Massimo Costa
16:46 Spiteri tells the House that the motion was brought forward in order "to protect Maltese and Gozitan citizens, and all living on these islands, to ensure they get the best health care services" Massimo Costa
16:42 Good afternoon. PN MP Stephen Spiteri has tabled the motion, which is signed by himself, PN leader Adrian Delia, and MPs Robert Cutajar and Karol Aquilina. The motion refers to revelations by MaltaToday that Konrad Mizzi had signed an escape clause in 2019 which turned any termination of the Steward concession into a government default, which would require the government to pay €100 in cash to the US company Massimo Costa

An Opposition motion to cancel the Steward hospitals contract was defeated in Parliament this evening.

The government, through Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis, tabled an amendment to the motion, with 35 voting in favour of the changes, and 29 against, effectively meaning the original Opposition motion was shot down.

The debate saw Prime Minster Robert Abela criticise the Opposition for bringing forward the motion at an "insensitive time" while the country is fighting the coronavirus. He also said that the Opposition should have first waited for the ongoing legal proceedings on the Steward contract to first conclude, in the name of the rule of law.

PN leader Adrian Delia rebutted Abela's criticism, saying the government had inserted a €100 million escape clause in the Steward contract which would make the tax-payer liable to pay €100 million should the deal be cancelled for any reason. The government was then trying to shift the blame to the Opposition for this, he said.

Despite Delia's calls for government MP's vote in the best interest of the Maltese people and support the motion, the tabled amendments went through, and the motion's original intention of cancelling the hospitals deal was defeated.

Earlier

Steward inherited the 30-year concession to operate Gozo General Hospital, St Luke's Hospital and Karin Grech Hospital from Vitals Global Healthcare, after the latter went belly up.

The Nationalist Party has asked all MPs to support the motion - which is asking Parliament to terminate the contract and return the hospitals to the public - with party leader Adrian Delia urging government MPs to "act for Malta".

The Opposition has insisted that the private operator failed to live up to its commitment to invest millions into state-of-the-art facilities, including a new Gozo hospital, while government had already forked out millions to finance the deal.

MaltaToday had revealed that under the contract, which has not yet been published, Malta could face a €100 million bill should the hospitals concession ever be rescinded, even if this should happen because Steward does not abide by its contractual obligations.

The newspaper revealed that all debts incurred by Steward would be passed on to the government, and the American company would still be liable for a €100 million contractual pay-out for its equity.

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