Prime Minister requests Auditor General to probe money transferred to Steward Healthcare

The Prime Minister has written to the Auditor General asking him to investigate the Opposition’s allegation that €400 million in taxpayer money went to waste on the Steward hospitals concession

Prime Minister Robert Abela has written to the Auditor General requesting an investigation into the money passed on to Steward Healthcare as part of a hospitals concession.

Abela’s specific request is a probe into the Opposition's allegation that the government paid €400 million to Steward Healthcare and received nothing in return.

In his letter, Abela stated that the Tax Commissioner has already taken steps to recover tax arrears from Steward Healthcare.

Abela had said in Parliament on Thursday that he will ask the Auditor General to probe where all the public money passed on to Steward was invested.

He also promised to take legal action to recoup any finances that were not spent properly. But before pursuing the company, he said that he will await the Auditor General’s verdict.  

Abela gave a spirited defence of Steward Healthcare’s investment in the three hospitals on Thursday, using a substantial part of his speech time to list the investments and services Steward made in the hospitals.

Last month, a Maltese court annulled all contracts awarded to Steward Healthcare and VGH as part of a privatisation deal that saw three hospitals sold off to foreign investors.

These contracts were annulled on the basis that the concessionaires failed to fulfill their contractual obligations.

The deal was originally struck in 2015, when government granted a concession for the running of three hospitals to VGH.  The hospitals’ concession had been negotiated by Konrad Mizzi, who was health minister at the time.

Under that agreement, VGH was handed St Luke’s Hospital, Karin Grech Hospital and the Gozo General Hospital.

The deal with VGH, a relatively unknown consortium at the time, had caused many a raised eyebrow. Less than two years after being granted the concession, Vitals sold it to Steward Healthcare together with €55 million in debts accrued by VGH, for the nominal price of €1.

In 2018 Adrian Delia, then leader of the Opposition, had filed the case against the Prime Minister, Vitals Global Healthcare, the Attorney General, the CEO of Malta Industrial Parks Limited and the chairman of the Board of Governors of the Lands Authority in a bid to force the cancellation of the 99-year emphyteutical concession agreement.

The cancellation was requested on the basis that the concessionaires, both Vitals Global Healthcare and Steward Healthcare, had not fulfilled their contractual obligations.

Read the letter below

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