Update 3 | Dalli insists Mater Dei contract was presented to Cabinet • Fenech: 'no recollection'

Government seeking legal advice on waiver clause exonerating construction giant Skanska and Maltese contractors from liability on Mater Dei structure • PN shifts responsibility on former health minister John Dalli.

Adds clarification by Tonio Fenech

Former PN minister John Dalli has refuted suggestions that he is solely responsible for the controversial decision to exonerate building contractors from liability on Mater Dei’s structure, arguing that the contract between Swedish construction company Skanska and the government was approved by the Cabinet.

In a statement issued yesterday afternoon, Dalli also claimed that former finance minister Tonio Fenech had confirmed that the contract had undergone the usual process where it was presented to the Cabinet and approved.

But speaking to MaltaToday.com.mt on Monday morning, Fenech said that he was not yet in a position to confirm or deny. “I have no recollection whatsoever of the contract being presented to the Cabinet but I will endeavour to verify whether the contract had been presented or not,” Fenech said.

MaltaToday on Sunday reported that Fenech had confirmed that claims by both Skanska and the government had been solved through the 2009 agreement.

Dalli’s comments follow an exclusive MaltaToday report revealing how in February 2009, the Foundation for Medical Services(FMS) – which in 2009 was under the remit of former health minister John Dalli - signed away on a contract any claims or disputes that could be raised against Skanska as well as local contractors for fault or defective works at the hospital.

The government chastised the then-PN administration’s decision, with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announcing that the government would be seeking legal advice on the waiver clause.
“The government will fight the waiver at both political and legal levels to ensure that the Maltese people get what they paid for and what they deserve,” the government said this afternoon while suggesting there is a “smell of corruption and incompetence.”
But no sooner than the government’s declaration, the Nationalist Party refuted any involvement in the waiver clause that exonerates Skanska of any liability, instead shifting the responsibility onto its former minister, John Dalli.
“Joseph Muscat said that he would be seeking advice on the waiver. The best person to give such advice is John Dalli, who is today a consultant of Joseph Muscat,” the PN said. 

In a reaction, Dalli said the contract between the FMS and Skanska was associated by the parties themselves, whereas the negotiations were led by former FMS chief Brian St John and architect Paul Camilleri, both assisted by their lawyers.  
“As I always did throughout my 15 years of service in a Nationalist cabinet, I took the contract to Cabinet where it was discussed and approved. I still have to look at the contract to verify whether the structural defects were included in the exemptions given,” he said.
Moreover, Dalli explained that his consultancy services to the government were carried out free of charge. In addition he explained that he drew up a report on the country’s health system, but was unsure whether it was being implemented.

On Saturday, MaltaToday contacted Brian St John who in turn refused to comment on the waiver, telling the newspaper that questions should be diverted to John Dalli. The former PN minister subsequently told MaltaToday that the two sides had reached an agreement to wash out the claims that were being put forward but said that he could not remember the details of the contract.
 

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