Updated | Labour MPs against publication of Electrogas contracts in Public Accounts Committee

Nationalist MPs want government to give parliament’s Public Accounts Committee access to all Electrogas contracts but move is opposed by Labour MPs • Unanimous agreement that Enemalta should publish minutes of evaluation committee that decided gas power station tender

Joseph Muscat and Konrad Mizzi at the new LNG power station (File Photo)
Joseph Muscat and Konrad Mizzi at the new LNG power station (File Photo)

Labour MPs on the Public Accounts Committee have refused to support a request for government to publish all contracts linked to the Electrogas project.

Government MPs Glenn Bedingfield, Clayton Bartolo, Ian Castaldi Paris and Alex Muscat voted down a proposal put forward by Opposition MP Karol Aquilina for the PAC to formally ask government to give the committee access to all contracts related to Electrogas.

The motion put forward by Aquilina was supported by fellow Nationalist MPs Ryan Callus and Beppe Fenech Adami, who chairs the PAC.

The PAC is conducting hearings on the National Audit Office report that analysed the award of the gas power station tender to Electrogas.

Today’s meeting started on a stormy note with government MPs insisting the Opposition MPs wanted to carry out a separate audit and thus undermine the work done by the NAO.

Aquilina argued that the PAC wanted to review the Electrogas contracts in light of the NAO findings.

The Opposition motion was voted down but a second request for Enemalta to publish all the minutes of the evaluation committee that took the decision to award the gas power station tender was supported unanimously.

The NAO report concluded in 2018 found that a government decision late in the gas power station tendering process to include a security of supply agreement gave the final two bidders an advantage. This agreement “significantly reduced” the risk for the final two bidders, effectively changing the ball game, the NAO found.

Another change contemplated late in the day of the tendering process and which favoured Electrogas was the condition to have the LNG supplier as a shareholder in the company.

However, the NAO found no evidence the power station contract was a done deal

The PAC only started evaluating the Electrogas report last month.

Red flag noted but tender evaluation continued regardless

Auditor General Charles Deguara and his team continued testifying on their findings in today's session.

NAO officials said the evaluation committee had noted a red flag when it was clear that the lead partner in the Electrogas project, Gasol, was experiencing financial problems but went ahead regardless with awarding the tender.

Electrogas was penalised according to the weighting criteria adopted by the evaluation committee for the financial problems Gasol had but this was not strong enough to disqualify the company.

Gasol eventually pulled out of the consortium three months after Electrogas was awarded the tender in 2013 in what was an apparent breach of the original conditions that disallowed any share transfers from happening at least until January 2018.

Gasol's shares were purchased by the other partners in the consortium - Socar, Siemens and Maltese partners GEM.

The NAO official said it was unclear on what basis the evaluation committee excluded some companies from the tendering process and not others for not submitting required documents. The tendering document stipulated a list of 48 documents but the NAO found no straightforward basis on how failure to submit any of these documents was penalised. One company only submitted seven documents and qualified to the next stage while another submitted 21 documents but was excluded.

Asked what level of importance the documents requested, the NAO official said it was not clear from their evaluation what criteria was adopted.

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