Lack of cooperation during Vitals investigation – Auditor General

Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Auditor General Charles Deguara told the Board of the Public Inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia that his office was not given all the information it required while doing the investigation into the deal that passed on to Vitals Global Healthcare three public hospitals.

“There was lack of cooperation”, lamented the Auditor General. He said that in such cases they cannot go and grab someone from the scruff of one’s neck. They can only name and shame.

Deguara said that his office was not given a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between Government and Vitals’. They were told that this could not be found. They noted this in their report, and it was given to them a few days after the report had been published.

When answering questions by Dr Therese Comodini Cachia, a parte civile lawyer for the Caruana Galizia family, Deguara said that the position of his office was that Vitals should have been disqualified. He said that when it comes to large projects the perception is that government acts as if it was weaker than the private contractor.

Deguara said that generally corruption stats at the tender process.

He said that if he was asked for a document by the NAO and could not find it he would not sleep at night. Deguara noted that several departments did not have a good filing system but praised Permanent Secretaries who on the vast majority of cases are very helpful.

On the Electrogas project he said that there were good things and bad things. He added that his office was not asked to investigate the Montenegro Windfarm project.

Former Chief of Staff Keith Schembri will be giving his testimony during the Monday sitting of the Public Inquiry. The Board of the inquiry is chaired by retired judge Michael Mallia and includes Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino and Judge Abigail Lofaro.

Fenech’s protest to CoE noted

At the start of today’s session the Board of Inquiry noted  that it had received a copy of Yorgen Fenech’s request to the Council of Europe asking for the suspension of the inquiry to safeguard his rights.

The request was included in the acts of the inquest.

What NAO had concluded on VGH

Disgraced former Minister Konrad Mizzi was responsible for the deal with Vitals.

The National Audit Office had published its report in July 2020. It concluded that the deal was “predetermined.” The Office concluded that there was definite evidence that VGH knew beforehand of the planned project and that there was proof of collusion with government, or its representatives.

When the NAO asked for a copy of the pre-tender agreement it was referred from one ministry to another, each ministry shifting responsibility to another ministry.

“This casts a dark shadow on the validity of the concession awarded by government, for in effect, all appears to have been predetermined to ensure an already agreed outcome,” the NAO said.