Three ministers have argued they have been singled out for their role in the Vitals Global Healthcare deal when, in fact, the whole Cabinet was responsible for it.
NGO Repubblika called for an inquiry into the role of Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, Economy Minister Chris Cardona and Finance Minister Edward Scicluna in an alleged “criminal conspiracy” to drain money from the public coffers via the deal.
In submissions made by their lawyers in response to a court application by Repubblika, the ministers said the process leading to three public hospitals being given under a 30-year concession to a company, which had no prior healthcare experience, was in line with normal practices.
Among the issues highlighted by Repubblika was the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the investors behind VGH several months prior to the public competition for the contract.
The three ministers noted the memorandum of understanding was non-binding and limited to the Gozo General Hospital.
The signing of the document with prospective investors was a normal procedure that did not impinge on any later procurement processes, they said.
The memorandum of understanding was non-binding and limited to the Gozo General Hospital
A letter was later sent to one of the investors, saying the “high level concept” for a 650-bed hospital in Gozo was “not aligned” to the current requirements of the government, the ministers noted, adding this was prior to the public call for an expression of interest to run the Gozo, St Luke’s and Karin Grech hospitals.
No reference to the memorandum was made in the letter exhibited by the ministers in court.
The Cabinet ministers objected to being linked to allegations of criminal behaviour simply by virtue of their roles.
“God forbid a person is subjected to an inquiry simply because he is politically responsible for a government entity,” they said.
“If that were to be the case, court inquiries would turn into a very dangerous political tool.”
Dr Mizzi, Dr Cardona and Prof. Scicluna objected to responsibility for the contract being pinned exclusively on them because that ignored the constitutional concept of collective Cabinet responsibility.
They wondered why they were selectively chosen as individuals having a vested interest in the contract and why they were being made to answer the “unfounded allegations” by Repubblika, particularly in light of the concept of collective Cabinet responsibility.
Questions had been raised by the NGO about the amount paid to VGH yearly as part of the concession agreement. Payments to Vitals were approved by Parliament, the ministers said.