A court on Wednesday heard details about the work of committees which evaluated bids for the concession of three government hospitals in 2015 as the compilation of evidence continued against former health minister Chris Fearne and Central Bank Governor Edward Scicluna. They and several public officialsare pleading not guilty to fraud and misappropriation over the concession granted to Vitals Global Healthcare and subsequently Steward Healthcare.

David Galea, specializing in commercial advisory services through his company BEAT Ltd, explained how he had been engaged by Projects Malta to give his input to the steering committee set up to see to the implementation of the hospitals project.

Asked whether he was a member of that committee, Galea said that he “attended every meeting” but had never seen any list explicitly naming members of the steering committee.

Pressed further by lawyer David Farrugia Sacco about the chairmanship of that committee, Galea explained that former permanent secretary Ronald Mizzi was “most senior” but “sometimes there was also (permanent secretary) Joe Rapa.” However he was not “100% sure” about who was chairing.

Committee members were not “medical experts,” said Galea, highlighting the fact that his expertise was commercials.

Amplifying on the set-up, Galea said that there was a negotiation committee and an evaluation committee, and seven types of work schemes. He listed those work schemes as: sites preparation including expropriation and other land-related groundwork, evaluation of bids from third parties, a negotiating team handling commercial arrangements, a technical team dealing with property, hospital and services and medical services to patients, an external communications team linked to the ministry, a human resources team and a project management team.

As for the bids for the hospitals project, Galea said that he did not recall being present when the bids were discussed. However, he was only involved in the bid by Vitals.

He had learnt through media reports that there were three bidders on the hospitals project.

Questioned by lawyer Franco Debono, Galea said that bids filed in terms of the Request for Proposals were to be evaluated in line with a set of fixed criteria, one of which was “fit and probity.”

Criteria were weighted, with “fit and probity,” carrying a weighting of 5%.

Asked specifically about the pass mark, Galea said that he would have to check relative documentation to confirm that figure.

When testifying during a previous sitting, Auditor General Charles Deguara had “harshly criticized” the negotiation and evaluation of the project, underlining the fact that the health side was not at all involved.

“What have you to say about that?” asked lawyer Stefano Filletti.

“First of all, it was one and the same ministry,” replied the witness, with reference to the former Energy and Health Ministry headed by Minister Konrad Mizzi who was responsible for spearheading the project.

“And the technical medical aspects were definitely handled by medical experts. I cannot say who but the health people were definitely involved,” added Galea.

Asked by presiding Magistrate Leonard Caruana about the extent of involvement of the health ministry, Galea explained that the project involved commercial, legal and technical aspects. He was involved in the commercials.

Asked for the names of those involved in the technical side of the project, Galea first said that he could not recall. But then he dropped the names of doctors Stephen Zammit and Nadine Delicata as the heads of Karin Grech and Gozo Hospitals respectively.

“Do you agree that those [doctors] ended up working for Vitals?”asked lawyer Stephen Tonna Lowell. “Yes,” replied Galea. “But to be fair, I don’t know if they were involved in the project.”

The case continues. 

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