[WATCH] Adrian Delia questions Robert Abela’s role in hospitals concession deal

Opposition leader Adrian Delia has questioned the role Robert Abela played as legal advisor to then prime minister Joseph Muscat when the hospitals concession deal was amended last August to favour the company

Opposition leader Adrian Delia
Opposition leader Adrian Delia

Adrian Delia tore into the hospital concession agreement with Steward Health Care, accusing politicians of putting their own interests ahead of the country’s when signing the deal.

In a wide-ranging interview on TVM’s Xtra, the Opposition leader lambasted the government’s concession strategy, saying that the initial signatories – Vitals Global Healthcare – were fraudsters who knew nothing at all about running or renovating hospitals.

Delia also criticised Steward Malta, the current signatories on the hospital concession contract, noting that they too failed to live up to their end of the agreement.

“They were supposed to invest €180 million, and they invested nothing,” he insisted, pointing to the current state of Gozo General Hospital and St Luke’s Hospital.

Delia was unrelenting. “These were supposed to become state of the art hospitals but they did nothing and we started giving them money: €50 million a year, €60 million, €70 million… and they gave us nothing in return.”

He added angrily that despite all this, and despite the fact that the initial contract was already being challenged in court, the government still decided to change the terms in August last year to further favour Steward. A clause was inserted that should the contract be dropped by the Maltese government, the country would owe the company €100 million.

He added: “What madness is this? Why did Robert Abela, who was a lawyer in the prime minister’s office at the time, accept that the Maltese people will have to pay €100 million from their pockets to Steward when they fail?”

Delia accused the contract signatories of robbing the people. “These people are thieves… and instead of trying to get our money back, we signed a contract with them a few months ago to give them a gift of €100 million,” the Nationalist Party leader said incredulously.

“This is not just corruption, not just illegality; this is immorality,” he said.

The Opposition leader also turned on Prime Minister Robert Abela, criticising him for defending the contract to the detriment of the national interest, and questioning what he had to gain from supporting the agreement. 

The government side voted against a motion put forward by the Opposition last week to rescind the contract.

Delia insisted that he will continue to fight for the dissolution of the contract in court, and for justice to be served against “those who stole from our people, who betrayed and cheated the Maltese and Gozitans after swearing to protect their interests”.

Probed by show host Saviour Balzan as to whether he believes that there were politicians who benefitted fraudulently from this contract, Delia argued that logic dictates that when a contract is signed promising to give without getting anything in return, someone has got to be benefitting.

Thousands of workers left out of coronavirus financial aid 

While commending the health authorities’ response to the coronavirus pandemic, Delia criticised how the government left thousands of workers without any help whatsoever.

He said these workers were abandoned. “What message is the government giving to these people - you are alone, see what you’re going to do, the government, the country is not here for you.”

The Opposition leader argued that the government is being short-sighted in this regard, since if such people end up unemployed, the country will still have to shoulder the costs of unemployment benefits.

Delia also said that the government’s approach to handling the economic fallout of the pandemic is flawed. 

“The government’s perspective is ‘I have this much, so I will pass it around bit by bit, so that it doesn’t run out’. That is mistaken. You have to see how the economy works. You have to see how you’re going to invest the money. Let us look at the money which we can and will get from the EU, and in an intelligent manner start talking about a strategy which will lead us into the future,” he said.

He encouraged the government to think about the aid and incentives it can offer businesses to adapt and move forward, as opposed to waiting passively for things to happen. 

However, Delia insisted that this can only be done if the government meets and converses with all the sectors, since each sector will require a different type of investment. 

“It should be up to ourselves to change tomorrow’s world, firstly, so that it’s better than that of yesterday, and secondly, so that we don’t fall behind. We are not competing between ourselves, we are competing with the world,” he added.

‘No compromise on saving lives’

On the migration crisis, Delia said that, above all else, there should be “no compromise on saving lives”.

However, the Nationalist leader insisted that a distinction had to be made between asylum seekers and economic refugees, arguing that those not eligible for asylum should immediately be sent back to their countries.

Delia also emphasised that, once those lives are saved, the EU should step in to help since Malta cannot take any more migrants.

“We are full, there is no room, our open centres are packed and full, with or without the pandemic… So after we save them, the disembarkation takes place in other ports within the European Union” he said.

Delia also criticised the Prime Minister’s response to the recent allegations put forward by the NGO Repubblika against the Prime Minister, Armed Forces of Malta Brigadier Jeffrey Curmi, and the crew of the patrol boat P52 in relation to the death of 12 migrants at sea. 

The Opposition leader said Abela showed political immaturity by taking such a serious matter and using it to try to sow division in the country.

“I think he was populist, irresponsible, and immature, to go out there and take something like this, which is truly delicate, and use it to try to create national division,” Delia said, accusing Abela of trying to fool the public by making it appear as if it was the Opposition that filed the police report.

Delia reiterated his negative impression of Abela: “I don’t think he has yet realised, or been allowed to exercise his role as a Prime Minister.”

He drew particular attention to how Abela has now turned to his predecessor, Joseph Muscat for advice. 

“Joseph Muscat left because he was voted as the most corrupt person in the world. Robert Abela is sealing the condemnation of our country’s reputation… by seeking advice from someone who destroyed the country’s reputation,” he said.