The Albanian government has drafted a new law that marks another step towards a Public-Private Partnership with a company and investors involved in a deal that ripped off Maltese taxpayers to the tune of millions and sparked a still ongoing, criminal investigation.
In a draft law, seen by Exit, the Albanian government set forth a number of provisions that allow private hospitals to become a part of the national hospital service, therefore benefitting from state funding, as well as money raised through public-private partnerships.
Article 23 of the draft law states that “non-public hospitals receive public funding through the financing of compulsory health insurance service packages”, as well as “public-private partnerships”.
Under the proposed law, a new type of hospital is defined, known as an “autonomous hospital”. This is a public hospital that has full autonomy in how it is financed, for example in “legitimate non-budgetary sources”. The law also states that public hospitals can be financed by “domestic and foreign donors” as well as the government and taxpayers money.
Furthermore, the law states that “autonomous public hospitals can enter into contracts with third parties for the provision of health services” with approval from the Minister responsible for health.
This latest twist in this mysterious, medical tale, follows on from the complex web of Memorandums of Understanding signed between Albania and Montenegro, and Montenegro and companies headed by investors with less than stellar reputations.
All of these steps, whilst on their own seeming minor, come together to paint a picture of corrupt privatisation of public healthcare that, if implemented, could result in the Albanian and Montenegrin taxpayers being scammed out of millions of euros.
In our previous article, Exit revealed how in 2016, the Montenegrin government signed an MoU with Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH)- a company with no experience in anything- for the construction of three hospitals in the country, situated on prime coastal real estate.
Shortly after, an investor in VGH, Shaukat Ali Abdul Gafoor travelled from Montenegro to Albania in January 2017 to negotiate a similar deal with the Albanian government. Sure enough, a few months later in April the Montenegrin Ministry of Health then signed an MoU with the Albanian Ministry of Health to promote contacts and cooperation between “organisations operating in the field of health in both countries.” This agreement was for two years, automatically renewable for another two years, on an indefinite basis.
Within months of signing, Vitals Global Healthcare was essentially bankrupt in Malta, despite receiving a concession to run three state hospitals, worth EUR 7 billion and over EUR 50 million in taxpayers money. The billion-euro concession was then snapped up by Steward Healthcare for the bargain price of just EUR 1 and the Ministers involved in negotiating the deal are now subject to a criminal investigation for money laundering, allegations of kickbacks, and fraud.
Then in July 2017, Shaukat Ali Abdul Gafoor entered Albania again from the border crossing at Morine to allegedly meet with Albanian government officials. His last visit was in May 2018, just as his name was being linked by The Shift News in Malta to corruption on a grand scale. The investigative portal found that Gafoor, Tumuluri and other investors were involved in both VGH and Steward, meaning they got filthy rich from the sale and acquisition at the expense of the Maltese taxpayers.
Once the sale with Steward went through, Montenegro signed a new MoU with Steward, containing much of the same provisions as the previous one with VGH. The agreement with Albania didn’t need to be changed, and Steward was now free to pursue their plans for a hospital in Vlore, completely undetected.
At this point, Tumuluri took over and visited Albania to meet with government officials in August and November 2018 as well as February 2019. While talks with government officials were apparently going well according to a senior member of Rama’s government, changes needed to be made to the law.
The “Hospital Service In The Republic Of Albania Law” creates an environment where the lines between who funds what are blurred, and the long-suffering state of Albanian healthcare is at the mercy of the highest bidder.
If passed, this law will allow for VGH/Steward to take over any public hospital or start a private hospital, despite leaving behind a trail of less than successful projects in other countries, and an ongoing magisterial inquiry.
This article was developed with the support of Journalismfund.eu
In collaboration with The Shift News