Health Minister Chris Fearne has confirmed that disgraced former minister Konrad Mizzi signed a waiver on Steward Health Care’s €9 million obligation on a bank guarantee behind his back.
Konrad Mizzi, the disgraced former minister who made a habit of signing controversial agreements, signed an €9 million waiver for bank guarantee to Steward Health Care, the company now running a 30-year concession for three state hospitals.
“I was never informed of it even though I was serving as Health Minister at the time,” Fearne told the public inquiry looking into the assassination of Daphne caruana Galizia, when asked about a controversial waiver to the company now running a 30-year concession for three state hospitals.
The government would later reverse the decision once former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Mizzi were booted out of the administration.
Steward took over the concession after the original concessionaire Vitals Global Healthcare crumbled under mountain of debt and unrealised promises. The National Audit Office has since revealed evidence of collusion and other glaring issues in the VGH deal, which was led by Mizzi.
Fearne revealed he was not even involved in Steward’s takeover, with Mizzi, former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, and his chief of staff Keith Schembri taking over the reins.
Lovin Malta had previously revealed how Muscat, Mizzi, and Schembri gave Steward Healthcare certain assurances when they were brought in to save the floundering deal.
Although Mizzi was no longer Health Minister at the time, he was still responsible for public private partnerships. Indeed, he was responsible for that portfolio since 2013 and did not lose it during his ‘demotion’ following the Panama Papers scandal.
“Yes, it remained in his portfolio even when he had other portfolios or none at all. The idea was one of continuity and that ‘Konrad will deliver’,” Fearne said.
Issues surrounding the concession have defined the first few months of 2020, with Steward recently calling for an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Robert Abela over its failure to cough up some €18 million in due reimbursements.
COVID-19 put talks on the back burner, but the issue is sure to erupt again with government appointing a board to scrutinise the deal.
“We must see what’s best for the public – whether to continue with this deal, whether to amend it or whether to scrap it and the ancillary agreements,” Abela said in March.
More recently, a National Audit Office report found evidence of collusion in the deal – with a memorandum of understanding between VGH and the government being signed months before a request for proposals was even announced.
Mizzi, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna and former Minister Chris Cardona are subject to a magisterial inquiry over their roles in the deal.
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