Ministers argue they did not personally oversee hospitals concession
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Ministers argue they did not personally oversee hospitals concession

Court refuses call for two-month extension, says reply has to be given by June 3

St Luke's Hospital

St Luke's Hospital

Three government ministers have told a court they did not personally oversee a controversial concession handing over the running of three public hospitals to Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH), and therefore needed more time to respond to a request for an inquiry into the concession.

Ministers Edward Scicluna, Chris Cardona and Konrad Mizzi are facing a formal request for an inquiry by civil society activists from Republika, who have accused them of forming part of a “criminal conspiracy” with third parties to steal or defraud millions from the Maltese public.

In their reply to the demand, the three ministers dismissed the 150-page application as “speculation”.

The ministers requested more time to rebut it, arguing the “allegations” were about processes that were directly administered by various bodies, and not by themselves personally.

At least another two months were needed to gather the information to reply to the request, the ministers told the court.

They said the subject matter was identical to that already being investigated by the National Audit Office and all the information was already being given to the Auditor General.

They also argued the “speculation” presented to the court happened years ago, and seeing that the activists felt no need to present these “allegations” to a court earlier, there matter was not urgent enough to be rebutted within a few days.

Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit dismissed the request for a two-month extension, instead giving the three ministers until June 3 to reply.

She noted the ministers’ declaration that the matter was being looked into by the NAO and said this meant that a lot of the material needed for their reply was already available, and there was no need for a long extension.

The activists have accused the three ministers of going through the motions of a public process based on impartiality and value for money to award the contract, while in reality being part of a criminal conspiracy with the winning bidder.

Economy Minister Chris Cardona had signed a memorandum of understanding with the investors behind VGH several months before the request for proposals for the project was even public.

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