In 2015, Minister Konrad Mizzi agreed to hand over three of our hospitals to Vitals, a Johnny come lately shell-company which had no experience in running any sort of professional operation, let alone in hospital management. The deal immediately raised suspicions.

Questions were asked. Why was Vitals chosen given their inexperience in the medical field? Who were the persons behind the shell company?

These and other pertinent questions were never answered by the government. Instead government opted to defend the indefensible by saying that the owners of Vitals had access to billions of euros which they are prepared to invest to improve our health sector. All hogwash of course.

As succinctly put by Martin Balzan, the president of the Medical Association of Malta, all Vitals did was dig a hole in Gozo and scrap some walls in Malta. So much for investing in the Maltese health sector.

The whole Vitals deal was a fiasco from the word go. It was never meant to last. In my books, there is only one thing worse than a fiasco and that is a planned fiasco. And as things are panning out, I have no qualms in saying that the Vitals deal was structured to fail.

The question we need to ask now is who gained from this conned construct. With every day that passes, we are discovering new details about the deal, details that give credence to the claim that this deal was intended to rob the masses and enrich the few.

That the deal was struck with Vitals before the closing of the tender process is damning in itself. A memorandum of understanding was signed with Vitals in February 2015 even though the tender that led to their selection closed on May 19, 2015. This points to highly irregular if not criminal behaviour.

The Opposition formally requested the Auditor General to investigate this deal. I look forward to reading the Auditor’s views on how an agreement can be reached with a bidder before the closing date of a tender process.

There is another important dimension to this story. The official contract between Vitals and the government of Malta was signed on November 30, 2015. Two days before, Karl Cini from Nexia BT e-mailed Mossack Fonseca, instructing the Panamanian law firm to open offshore companies for Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri. Coincidence? I hardly think so.

This deal was intended to rob the masses and enrich the few

Which brings me to the next point. It is estimated that Vitals will have pocketed €2,000,000,000 million from this deal over a 30-year period, which equates to €190,000 a day, every day for 30 years. On top of these monies, Vitals were going to receive an additional €36 million from Barts Medical School.

These sums of monies are incomprehensible to the vast majority of Maltese people. A million euro for the average income earner is already monopoly money let alone a billion. It is not easy for most of us to come to grips with the significance of the monies involved. But it is our duty to understand and it is in our collective interest to get to the bottom of this. Our money and our assets are at play.

A deal of this nature is fertile land for commissions and mark-ups. How much did Vitals pocket from selling on this contract? A miserly one per cent on the whole value of the contract equates to €20 million. The government stated on record that it has no clue how much money Vitals made from selling on this contract. I think it is the government’s duty to find out.

The government from the word go defended Vitals. Now that Vitals has failed, it is the government’s responsibility to do what it should have done from day one and defend the taxpayer who ended up at the wrong end of this shady piece of business.

For starters, the government should publish all the information, including all the financial information pertinent to this deal.

Government should publish the names of the owners of Vitals. If the government does not know who these owners are then it should make it its business to find out.

I am purposely distinguishing between Minister Konrad Mizzi and the government. Government is not and should not be Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his inner most circle. The government is bigger than any one individual.

Which brings me to my final point.

Minister Chris Fearne is caught between a rock and a hard place. He was not the architect of this diabolical plan but he was given the task of administering its fallout. He has a difficult choice to make. He can defend his predecessor by continuing to defend the deal and in the process become an accomplice in this sordid affair. Or he can do the honourable thing and help the country get to the bottom of Vitalsgate.

The Opposition, the independent media, the Medical Association of Malta are calling on the government to put a halt to this whole mess.

The deal with Vitals should be investigated from its inception right through to its premature end. The government should not allow the inept Vitals to negotiate on our behalf. They failed to carry out their contractual obligations.

The government should use this opportunity to regain control of the three hospitals and then decide, free from the shackles of Vitals, the fate of these three hospitals in the best interests of our health system.

Adrian Delia is the leader of the Opposition.

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