Konrad Mizzi back at PAC as MPs engage in tit-for-tat over line of questioning

Former energy minister Konrad Mizzi appears in front of the Public Accounts Committee in session marred by MPs’ bickering over what questions he should be asked

Former minister Konrad Mizzi
Former minister Konrad Mizzi

A meeting of the Public Accounts Committee in which former minister Konrad Mizzi was testifying had to be suspended with government MPs accusing Opposition counterparts of bad faith.

The PAC is probing the findings of the National Audit Office into the Electrogas contract and Mizzi was called to testify again on a security of supply agreement (SSA) signed between government and Socar Trading on LNG at the time the contract was awarded.

The SSA, which was rescinded in December 2017 and is no longer in force, was released to the media last summer after a freedom of information request.

Opposition MPs on the PAC said the revelation constituted new information and had asked for Mizzi to testify again on the LNG SSA.

Although the SSA had not been in the public domain the NAO had access to it and analysed it as part of its investigation.

On Tuesday, Mizzi gave a short presentation on the LNG SSA and confirmed it had not been passed on to the European Commission for review because it was an agreement between government and Socar that did not involve any transactions with Electrogas.

“We had legal advice from the law firm Clifford Chance that it did not constitute state aid and it did not constitute a transaction with Electrogas,” Mizzi said.

But when government MPs objected when Darren Carabott, the committee’s chair, moved on to ask about other matters that had already been raised with the former minister in previous testimony.

Labour MP Glenn Bedingfield insisted that the meeting be suspended so that the committee reviews the minutes of the meeting when it was agreed that Mizzi should testify again, limitedly on the SSA agreement.

Carabott objected, insisting there was never an agreement on what to ask Mizzi. Nationalist MP Rebekah Borg asked government MPs what were they afraid of. “Why are you not letting him answer? You are afraid of letting him answer.”

Labour Whip Andy Ellul accused Opposition MPs of ungentlemanly behaviour. “When we agreed to allow Konrad Mizzi to testify again it was on condition that he testify on the ‘new’ information that came to light and you yourself, Mr Chairman informed the witness that what he testified about in the past forms part of the existing inquiry,” Ellul said.

When Carabott insisted on asking Mizzi about the formation of the evaluation committees that judged the award of the tender, Bedingfield forced a vote.

In the heat of the exchange, Bedingfield belted out: “Let us get the transcripts of the meeting so that you will make a fool of yourselves (Ġibu t-transcripts ħa taqgħu għan-nejk).”

When the meeting continued, the minutes were read out with either side claiming they were right.

Eventually, Konrad Mizzi was called back in and Carabott asked him whether he had personally chosen key people to sit on the evaluation committees but the former minister insisted he had already testified about this previously.