The take-over is (al­most) com­plete

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

The his­tory of the Mal­tese Par­lia­ment has many glo­ri­ous pages and many not so glo­ri­ous pages. Mon­day was one of the lat­ter.

The meet­ing of the Public Ac­counts Com­mit­tee re­ceived a let­ter from the med­i­cal as­so­ci­a­tion MAM and UĦM ask­ing for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Au­dit Of­fice into the en­try of VGH into the man­age­ment of three hos­pi­tals – the Gozo Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal, St Luke’s Hos­pi­tal and Karin Grech Hos­pi­tal. Now the PAC is the only par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee that has a ma­jor­ity made up from the Op­po­si­tion and the gov­ern­ment is in a mi­nor­ity. But the gov­ern­ment mi­nor­ity in PAC latched on to a re­quest by Op­po­si­tion MP Claudette But­tigieg to the Health Com­mit­tee on which she sits to dis­cuss the VGH and re­quested that the dis­cus­sion be shifted from PAC to the Health Com­mit­tee. Now this might seem to be a dis­cus­sion on an­gels on pin­heads, but it is not. It has sig­nif­i­cant and som­bre reper­cus­sions.

It means that the takeover by a pri­vate com­pany (on which there are many ques­tions and doubts) of three of Malta’s

Ed­i­tor’s pick

hos­pi­tals is not stud­ied by the Au­dit Of­fice nor dis­cussed by the PAC on which there is a ma­jor­ity of Op­po­si­tion MPs and in­stead dis­cussed by the Health Com­mit­tee on which the gov­ern­ment is in a ma­jor­ity.

PAC was set up pre­cisely to of­fer checks and bal­ances, al­beit lim­ited, and this sug­ges­tion by the gov­ern­ment side by­passes it en­tirely. It is true there is the Ple­nary where any is­sue can be raised but here the gov­ern­ment has a ma­jor­ity, now slightly re­duced, but no dis­cus­sion in Ple­nary can com­pete with the in­for­mal and less re­stricted meth­ods of the PAC.

And although the heads of the Au­dit Of­fice com­plained on Mon­day they have a huge work­load in front of them and so im­plied they would be hard put to tackle the VGH is­sue as well, there is an ad­di­tional im­pelling rea­son why the VGH is­sue should be tack­led at PAC with the help of the Au­dit Of­fice.

Nor is it a ques­tion which com­mit­tee gets to dis­cuss the VGH case as if this is a ques­tion of prece­dence. It is sim­ply a mat­ter which com­mit­tee is best suited to dis­cuss the mat­ter.

Now the is­sue, like Solomon’s baby, is in front of the Speaker who is ex­pected to de­cide (hope­fully not by cut­ting the baby up!) and we await his de­ci­sion. But at the same time we can­not but ex­press our dis­ap­point­ment at the soft, vel­vet, in­tran­si­gence with which the Labour mi­nor­ity at­tacked the is­sue. Min­is­ter Owen Bon­nici has this habit of ap­pear­ing all light and rea­son while un­der­neath he is steel and does not budge one inch. Claudette But­tigieg on her part was ready to with­draw her pro­posal to the Health Com­mit­tee but this aper­ture did not find a cor­re­spond­ing aper­ture on the part of the gov­ern­ment mi­nor­ity. For­tu­nately, PAC chair­man To­nio Fenech kept his cool and did not suc­cumb to the temp­ta­tion of call­ing for a vote (some­thing that hap­pened in the past and which had dele­te­ri­ous im­pacts on co­hab­i­ta­tion be­tween gov­ern­ment and Op­po­si­tion) much though this must have been con­stantly at the back of his head.

The takeover of the three hos­pi­tals by VGH is now prac­ti­cally com­plete with­out a proper dis­cus­sion in Par­lia­ment and with­out any dis­cus­sion by the unions rep­re­sent­ing the work­ers with the new own­ers.

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