Opposition leader Bernard Grech has claimed that Prime Minister Robert Abela was aware of a clause inserted into the Stewards hospital concession agreement that makes Malta liable to pay €100 million if the contract is cancelled.
“Because it suits him, [Robert Abela] is now saying he knows nothing about the €100 million penalty to Vitals, when he was in fact the consultant to the Prime Minister that authorised it,” Grech said in a Facebook post.
Last year it was revealed that the company had negotiated a new agreement with then Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, which included a clause stating that the Maltese government would need to pay Steward a penalty of €100 million if the contract is terminated.
This includes any termination resulting from a court decision, or Steward’s decision to leave itself.
Over the weekend, MaltaToday cited sources saying that the government would refuse to pay the penalty should it come to it with Abela yesterday telling journalists that the government would be exploring all legal avenues to avoid paying it, should Steward decide to leave.
He also stressed that the US healthcare operator was bound by contractual obligations and would have penalties imposed for any breach of contract.
“Robert Abela thinks he can take people for a ride when he threatens imposing penalties for a breach of contract when he knows that [Steward] is already breaking its contractual obligations,” Grech said.
He accused the government of stubbornly continuing to hand over €69 million a year to the company, which operates three of Malta’s public hospitals.
Grech said the company was offering an inadequate service and was doing “phantom work”.
“Robert Abela should immediately stop these payments linked to a fraudulent contract and immediately see to it that the public has money that was stolen from it returned. This is what we’re already doing from the Opposition benches,” Grech said.
Former PN leader Adrian Delia had instituted court proceedings calling on the courts to cancel the contract.
Earlier this month, in a joint judicial letter, Delia and Grech, said they would be holding the Cabinet responsible for the detrimental effects of the contract on the country.
They also noted that the fact that Steward itself had described the contract as “corrupt and fraudulent” in court proceedings meant that MPs’ approval of a budget allocation to the hospitals would be illegal.
Steward took the concession contract from the original concessionaires Vitals Global Healthcare in February 2018, after it failed to honour the terms of the concession.
Tag someone who needs to read this