NAO says Konrad Mizzi misled Cabinet on Steward deal / Malta News Dispatch – Tuesday 16 May 2023

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Updated 1215

MDA President says bureaucracy stifling property sales: Malta Developers’ Association president Michael Stivala has justified the discrepancy between the number of promise-of-sale agreements and actual property sales linking it to what he described as excessive bureaucracy in development processes, Reacting to recent NSO data showing that property sales were down by 18% in April, Stivala said that excessive bureaucracy required by agencies such as the Building and Construction Authority is lengthening the period required for permits to be issued and properties to be built, with promise-of-sale agreements often being extended multiple times to cater for this delay. According to the MDA President, the majority of promise-of-sale agreements are being signed for properties that are yet to be built, with a lack of supply of existing properties driving people to buy properties on plan. (Times of Malta)

UOM makes it among top 10%: The University of Malta is ranked 1,684 out of 20,531 universities around the world. This comes from the latest report published by the Centre for World University Rankings. The report shows that the University of Malta obtained a score of 67.1 out of 100 and ranks it with the best 8.3% of universities. Harvard University in the United States ranks in first place. (TVM)

Travel by Maltese exceeds pre-pandemic levels: In a clear indication of travel patterns rebounding from the effects of the global pandemic, the number of international trips taken by Maltese residents in the first quarter of 2023 has exceeded pre-Covid-19 levels. According to data from the National Statistics Office, outbound tourist trips from January to March 2023 reached 158,180, nearly doubling the 88,196 trips recorded in the same period last year. This remarkable recovery is a significant departure from the pandemic’s peak in the first three months of 2021 when only 18,717 trips were undertaken.

Morning Briefing

NAO says Konrad Mizzi misled Cabinet on Steward deal
Auditor General Charles Deguara has accused Konrad Mizzi of “misleading” the cabinet regarding a deal with Steward Healthcare, which obliged the government to pay €100 million if the hospitals contract was invalidated. In a strongly-worded statement, Deguara stated that the former tourism minister “engineered” the side deal by providing misleading information to the Cabinet. The agreement granted Steward a €100 million payout in the event that its contract with the government to manage the St Luke’s, Karin Grech, and Gozo hospitals was nullified. This scenario unfolded in February when Judge Francesco Depasquale invalidated the contracts due to fraud, including the €100 million agreement orchestrated by Mizzi.
(Times of Malta)

PM, PN react to NAO report

The National Audit Office’s latest report highlights that control of the concession was centralized between then-Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s office and Mizzi, to the detriment of Health Minister Chris Fearne. PM Robert Abela said the report confirms he was only privy to all details of the concession when he became PM. PN leader Bernard Grech said that “this is a scandal for everyone except for Robert Abela, who keeps defending the deal to this day,” adding that the prime minister insists on shifting blame on his predecessor despite having served as a legal consultant to the previous administration led by Muscat.

The two political parties disagreed on how the report was due to be debated. While Labour wanted an immediate discussion on Monday evening, the PN insisted on a parliamentary sitting next week, saying that a 400-page report could not be addressed with such short notice. (Newsbook)

lslamic cell components charged in Court
The compilation of evidence against seven individuals arrested on terrorism-related charges in April began before Magistrate Nadine Lia on Monday. The suspects were taken into custody a day earlier following an investigation by Maltese authorities, which was later joined by Europol. According to the prosecution, the investigation into a suspected Islamic extremist cell in Malta started in August 2022, with a focus on a small group of individuals publishing extremist material related to ISIS on their social media accounts. The defendants are denying the charges and have been in custody since their arraignment. (Maltatoday)

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