We sacked Konrad Mizzi – government reply over Vitals ‘collusion’ report

Abela administration says repudiation of Konrad Mizzi, disgraced health and energy minister, shows government has shouldered responsibility for Vitals concession

Konrad Mizzi: unloved by the Abela administration
Konrad Mizzi: unloved by the Abela administration

The Maltese government has said it has assumed responsibility for a damning report alleging collusion in the award of a multi-million hospitals concession to an unknown group of businessmen, by sacking the former health minister. 

Konrad Mizzi was expelled from the Labour parliamentary group in a vote backed by 99% of the party’s executive, after being implicated in a scandal where state utility Enemalta was said to have paid an over-inflated prices for a Montenegrin wind farm. 

The project was also partly financed by 17 Black, a company owned by the Tumas magnate Yorgen Fenech, the alleged mastermind in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

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“The government takes notes of the Auditor General’s report on the Vitals Global Healthcare, and declares that political responsibility was already assumed with the request to resign and eventual expulsion of the minister responsible for the project,” the office of Prime Minister Robert Abela said. 

“This government will be ensuring competitive processes in future, and that shortcomings identified by the NAO will not be repeated,” the OPM said. “This is the spirit of the important reforms this administration is carrying out on good governance.” 

Mizzi is now an independent MP but he has insisted he will show loyalty to Labour in Parliament. It is understood he is still a Labour Party member. 

The multi-million euro deal to transfer three State hospitals to an obscure private company was “predetermined”, the National Audit Office said. 

In a damning report published on Tuesday, the NAO pointed an accusing finger at an agreement signed between the government and some of the investors involved in Vitals Global Healthcare before even the request for proposal was published. 

The NAO said government was reluctant to provide it with a copy of the pre-tender agreement, reinforcing concerns over the “integrity of the eventual concession”. 

The audit office was referred from one ministry to another when it asked for the pre-tender agreement, with none being able to trace the original or a copy. 

“This casts a dark shadow on the validity of the concession awarded by government, for in effect, all appears to have been predetermined to ensure an already agreed outcome,” the NAO said.

The deal struck with VGH saw the transfer of Gozo General Hospital, St Luke’s Hospital and Karen Grech Rehabilitation Hospital to the private company that had no prior experience in healthcare projects. VGH eventually went belly up before the concession was transferred to American outfit Steward Health Care.

“The evidence indicating collusive action between the parties acting on behalf of government with the investors of the VGH renders the entire process dubious, irrespective of whether the process was in adherence with procedural and regulatory requirements,” the NAO said.

It laid the responsibility on then energy and health minister Konrad Mizzi, and to a lesser extent, the permanent secretary for energy.

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