The recent revelations surrounding the magisterial inquiry into the hospital concession to Vitals and Steward have once again thrust into the spotlight one of the most infamous instances of mismanagement and corruption in recent memory. In just five years from 2016 to 2021, the staggering sum of €267 million, and potentially closer to €400 million when accounting for subsequent years, has been squandered, leaving taxpayers with nothing to show for their hard-earned money. The figures emerge from the National Audit Office investigation. This debacle is not just a financial scandal; it is a betrayal of public trust and a testament to the impunity with which certain entities operate.

From the outset, alarm bells were ringing. Organizations such as UHM Voice of the Workers and the Doctors’ Union (MAM) raised legitimate concerns about the handling of the concession and the lack of expertise of the concessionaire. These warnings were not heeded, and what followed was a litany of mismanagement, collusion, and ultimately, the nullification of the concession by the courts.

The findings of the National Audit Office (NAO) investigation, which concluded collusion was involved, only serve to confirm what many had suspected all along. The subsequent court rulings, affirming the voidness of the concession, further underscore the magnitude of the wrongdoing. It’s a stark reminder that the institutions designed to safeguard public interests must remain vigilant and steadfast in their duties. Unfortunately, it turned out such institutions were spineless if not an accomplice.

However, the road to justice is fraught with obstacles. The attacks on the judiciary, questioning the timing and merits of the inquiry, reek of desperation and political intimidation. Such tactics must not deter the pursuit of truth and accountability. Those responsible for this flagrant abuse of public funds must be held to account, regardless of their standing or influence.

The victims of this scandal deserve no less, and the integrity of our institutions depends on it. Let the magisterial inquiry serve as a beacon of hope that accountability will prevail, and let us not rest until those responsible are brought to justice. Transparency, accountability, and stringent oversight are non-negotiable if we are to avoid falling prey to such daylight robbery again or ending up grey listed by the FATF. Unfortunately, the fact that the Central Bank of Malta government is facing accusations in connections with this scandal, does not bode well and will surely hamper any efforts to safeguard Malta’s reputation.

Unfortunately, the prospects of recovering the lost millions appear dim. With Steward declaring bankruptcy and Vitals seemingly evaporating into thin air, the chances of restitution seem remote. This only compounds the sense of injustice felt by taxpayers who have been left footing the bill for a deal gone awry. The real victims of this scandal are the most vulnerable…those who rely completely on the State for their healthcare needs. The money thrown into this deal should have been channelled to address acute needs such as overcrowding in hospitals.