Government accedes to Opposition’s request for Electrogas probe to continue in PAC

Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee meets for the first time as conciliatory tone marks difference from previous legislature

The first meeting of the Public Accounts Committee agreed to continue probing the Electrogas contract
The first meeting of the Public Accounts Committee agreed to continue probing the Electrogas contract

The Electrogas power station contract will continue being probed by parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, MPs agreed in the first meeting held today.

Government MPs on the committee ditched normal practice and gave up their chance to put the first item on the agenda by agreeing to the Opposition’s request.

However, Labour Party MP Andy Ellul made it clear that the Electrogas debate could not drag on forever to the detriment of other issues.

The National Audit Office’s report on the Electrogas contract was being discussed by the PAC before parliament was dissolved as a result of the general election being called.

Former energy minister Konrad Mizzi was testifying and had not yet concluded his testimony despite several appearances characterised by pointed exchanges between him and Opposition MPs.

The Electrogas contract probe started in December 2020 and the Opposition had presented a list of around 100 witnesses it wanted to be questioned.

PAC chair, Nationalist Party MP Darren Carabott, said the Opposition was requesting the continuation of the discussion on the Electrogas contract. He said all testimony and documents that had already been presented will be preserved to avoid repetition.

Government members did not object but insisted that a timeline be set.

“We are agreeing that the Electrogas contract will continue to be discussed but let us agree on a list of witnesses and when these will be heard because there are many other important issues that require a discussion,” Bedingfield said.

PN deputy leader David Agius said putting a timeline would be akin to cutting the discussion short, suggesting that if the probe dragged on, the PAC should hold a second sitting during the week dedicated to a subject of government’s choice.

But Agius made it clear the Opposition had no intention of wasting time.

Eventually, MPs agreed that the Opposition present a list of witnesses it wanted to appear in front of the PAC and that the committee should meet more frequently if the Electrogas contract probe dragged on.

Despite taking a few digs at each other, MPs in today’s meeting adopted a more conciliatory tone than that which characterised the last legislature.

The PAC is the only committee to be chaired by the Opposition. The PN MPs on the committee are Darren Carabott, who chairs it, David Agius and Graham Bencini. The Labour Party MPs are Andy Ellul, Glenn Bedingfield, Alex Muscat and Clayton Bartolo.

The three Opposition members and Ellul for the government did not serve on the PAC in the last legislature.

The next sitting of the PAC will be held on 31 May at 2pm.