The report concluded that Mepa did not take any action against Enemalta in the Mercaptan case
Adds Labour's statement at 5:16pm
Alternattiva Demokratika denounced the Malta Envirionment and Planning Authority (Mepa) for colluding with Enemalta in the Mercaptan case.
In a press conference outside the Mepa offices in Floriana, Ralph Cassar, AD's secretary-general said that this week the authority's Audit Officer concluded an investigation on Mepa's conduct in the mercaptan case. The investigation was conducted on request of AD.
Cassar said "on the basis of how the facts developed AD is of the opinion that there was collusion between MEPA and Enemalta which aided the covering up of the whole matter."
He explained that in his report, the former Mepa auditor Joe Falzon concluded that the authority did not live up to its statutory obligations as it did not take any action against Enemalta
"Mepa could have avoided the whole incident as it was aware very early in the day as a result of 'informal' meetings that Enemalta was anxious to rid itself of the mercaptan in its possession.
A board of inquiry appointed by the Minister of Finance had concluded that Enemalta did not dispose of Mercaptan gas in the proper manner when it was destroyed by fire in 2009. The operation was carried out without the necessary permits.
AD deputy chairman Carmel Cacopardo thanked Falzon who for more than 8 years gave his services to the country as MEPA's Audit Officer.
This week Ombudsman Joseph Said Pullicino appointed David Pace as commissioner for the environment and planning.
Pace replaced former MEPA audit officer Joe Falzon after the latter was not reappointed by the government.
"He carried out his responsibilities in very difficult circumstances in direct confrontation with an authority which for a number of years made it very difficult for him to act. In these circumstances one has to not only have stamina but also to be a man of principle such that you are in a position to be of service notwithstanding the continuous obstacles created," Cacopardo said.
Cacopardo added that he understands why Falzon felt insulted as to the manner in which he was informed that his appointment would be ending shortly.
"Unfortunately in this country those that are of service are not sufficiently appreciated."
However, AD welcomed the amendment's to the Ombudsman Act which Cacopardo said will strengthen the independence of Falzon's successor.
"The Commissioner for Environment and Planning appointed this week is privileged that he will not have to stick his neck out to ensure his independence of action. This is now guaranteed by the Law. This is the result of the stands of principle taken by Architect Falzon throughout the past 8 years."
AD congratulated David Pace on his appointment and pointed out that his performance will be gauged against that of Falzon.
Cacopardo stressed that "AD considers that the office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Planning to be the citizen's shield from the arrogance which MEPA periodically manifests."
Meanwhile, Opposition MP Leo Brincat said Falzon's report confirmed Labour's allegations.
Brincat said an "independent expert who enjoys the full confidence of the Maltese society" has now assessed the allegations
He added that Labour now expects that Mepa officers take responsibility of their actions and of their grievous behaviour who contradicted the report's findings when they appeared in front of the Public Accounts Committee, in Parliament.
"It is now clear that Mepa never asked the Civil Protection Department how the case had been allegedly resolved and never kept the records of the informal meetings its officers held with Enemalta."
Brincat added that Mepa not only never took action when Enemalta repeatedly failed to answer questions but it almost seemed relieved that the case was closed.
The MP noted that to date, the authority has not adopted a zero tolerance policy in regards to environmental damage.
"Despite Mepa's muscle entrusted to it by law, it is still holding back from taking action against those corporations that violate the law," Brincat said.
The PL expects to keep on being adjourned on how the case will unfold and hopes that in future Mepa will start to take action even when departments and governmental entities fail to do so.