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Vitals deal investigation still pending

Investigation requested more than a year ago

Vitals director Ram Tumuluri and Health Minister Chris Fearne

Vitals director Ram Tumuluri and Health Minister Chris Fearne

The National Audit Office has yet to start investigating a deal between the government and Vitals Global Healthcare, the Times of Malta has learnt.

The Public Accounts Committee asked for an investigation into the controversial deal more than a year ago, but the Auditor General is still not in a position to start the audit because it is still working on another major investigation into the deal between Electrogas and the government over the new power plant in Delimara.

Asked yesterday why it had not yet started probing the Vitals deal, which is worth €2.1 billion in public funds, the Audit Office noted that the matter had already been raised at a PAC meeting.

Read: Why were Vitals payments doubled before hospital sale was announced?

“It was determined that, within the autonomy granted by virtue of the Constitution, the NAO should continue following its long-established policy that investigations were to invariably be carried out in a chronological manner, depending on when mandated by the PAC,” a spokesman for the Audit Office said.

Nothing to show for the exorbitant expenditure of public funds

The spokesman added that this approach ensured that the prioritisation of investigations was undertaken in a transparent and objective manner.

Health industry sources said that while an NAO investigation would surely shed light on any irregularities, there were other options, including an ad hoc independent inquiryon the 30-year concession to run three State hospitals and the sales agreement reached between Vitals and US company Steward Healthcare after obtaining the government’s consent. The government has yet to publish its written consent.

Read: PN, government agree on Vitals deal debate, but, crucially, not about the venue

The Nationalist Opposition has called on the NAO to investigate the “shady” deal, which the doctor’s union has dubbed “fake”. It called on the government to halt the deal until the NAO concluded its investigation.

Just a few days before the deal was made public, the Health Ministry sought the approval of Parliament to double the payments to Vitals for 2017 from €16 million to €34 million. While the government insisted that all payments had been made according to its contract, the doctors’ union said there was nothing to show for such an exorbitant expenditure of public funds.

Read: Malta hospitals sale agreement needs to be 'better understood' by Vitals partner

The Sunday Times of Malta has reported that Vitals did not meet any of the concession milestones it was obliged to meet according to the contract.

The government has not published the whole concession agreement, citing commercially sensitive data.

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