The controversial takeover of state hospitals by Vitals Global Healthcare was led entirely by Konrad Mizzi’s ministry, with the government’s public-private partnership arm Projects Malta being completely sidelined, a judge heard.
Projects Malta director William Wait testified in the case filed by former PN leader Adrian Delia against former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat over the Vitals deal. Wait was a director at the time of the VGH approval.
He insisted that Projects Malta only dealt with the administrative side of the process “taking tenders and so on”.
Wait said he was not a director at the time of the request for proposals issued for the hospitals concession, and that it was ministry consultant David Galea, who led negotiations with the then-unknown Vitals.
He said Projects Malta was bypassed, with the concession going straight to Cabint and confirmed Projects Malta’s role was “secretarial”.
He said the contracting authority was Mizzi’s health and energy ministry, and that Projects Malta was not involved in evaluating the project.
Instead, Projects Malta received submissions for the RFP, which were forwarded to the evaluation committee and then taken up by Cabinet.
Mr. Justice Depasquale asked whether it went straight to cabinet. “Yes,” replied the witness. “Did they come back to you?” asked the judge. “No,” replied Wait, who confirmed that the project was led entirely by Mizzi’s ministry.
Wait was replaced at Projects Malta by James Camenzuli in 2017. Camenzuli had been on the Vitals evaluation committee.
Also testifying, the finance ministry’s permanent secretary Alfred Camilleri confirmed that the VGH deal had nothing to do with Projects Malta.
“It is a concession after an RFP. The contracting authority was and still is the ministry for energy and health and then was run for a period under the minister of tourism, and today is still a tourism ministry project run completely by the health ministry,” said Camilleri.
Mizzi became tourism minister in 2017 before losing his role in 2019 at the height of the political crisis.
“Projects Malta has a parallel function to that of the privatisation unit,” Camilleri said. “It is a service provider. The difference is that Projects Malta was invented to facilitate public-private partnerships. All Projects Malta did at this stage was to service the project,” he added.
Camilleri said that at the time there was no legislation for services concessions, which was only introduced a year later. “Initially this was a services concession as it was giving services to government and to medical tourism; given that it depended on the economic environment, it was determined that it was a service concession that did not fall under public procurement regulations.”
He said he never saw the RFP, originally prepared by Ganado Advocates. “I couldn’t because we weren’t part of the contracting authority – the ministry for energy. I told the Projects Malta board that I wanted to know what I was getting into as a director, what decisions I would have to take. They told me ‘nothing as you aren’t the contracting authority, but a service provider’.”
Camilleri also declared that he had never heard of the memorandum of understanding between government and Vitals before it emerged in the media. He resisted efforts to have him hand over the MOU, saying: “I will not incriminate myself.”
Camilleri said he was not involved in any part of the RFP process, and that the finance ministry had not given any bank guarantee for Vitals, he said. “We weren’t involved, but the fact that I don’t know if it was approved by someone else means nothing,” he said.
Finance Minister Edward Scicluna is expected to testify in the next sitting on 9 December.