Return of the kitchen Cabinet: Scicluna insists LNG plant was fully under Mizzi remit

Former finance minister Edward Scicluna says energy ministry had full control of Delimara gas plant tender and decisions

Central Bank governor Prof. Edward Scicluna
Central Bank governor Prof. Edward Scicluna

The former finance minister Edward Scicluna has said a kitchen Cabinet that was responsible for some of the top decisions of the Muscat administration, was quite a normal quality of democracies the world over.

The Central Bank governor was quizzed over claims by Keith Schembri, Joseph Muscat’s former chief of staff, denying Scicluna’s assertion to the public accounts committee of decisions taken well in advance by a ‘kitchen Cabinet’ on the Delimara gas plant.

Prof. Scicluna insisted that in his testimony to the PAC on the Auditor General investigation into the €200 million Electrogas tender, he had been involved only insofar as matters of finance concerned him.

“As a Cabinet we voted for gas, but the process itself was in the hands of the energy ministry,” he said, referring to the expression of interest, evaluation and due diligence for the gas plant’s bidders that had been in remit of Konrad Mizzi’s energy ministry at the time.

Scicluna said that as finance minister he was also involved in the bank guarantee set up by the Maltese government to prop up Electrogas’s request for financing. “Of course, when I was given the presentation on the gas plant project before the 2013 election, I was there... in that sense, I was ‘involved’.”

But Scicluna also sought to play down the characterisation of a ‘kitchen Cabinet’ – which he himself had proposed to the Caruana Galizia public inquiry in 2020 – as something normal in democracies.

“Look, the notion of a kitchen Cabinet is rather neutral, even the White House has its own trusted advisors for the President... when I was asked by the Caruana Galizia public inquiry, I told the judges I was not so close to [Muscat’s] kitchen Cabinet. As finance minister, naturally I would be involved in the Budget for example.”

The Nationalist Party has now asked the police to investigate Scicluna, as well as former deputy commissioner Silvio Valletta and Keith Schembri, over alleged perjury.

The party’s Public Accounts Committee members – MPs Darren Carabott, David Agius and Graham Bencini – allege false testimonies before the committee and the public inquiry into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia on the Electrogas contract.

The request comes after Schembri testified before the PAC on Tuesday evening, saying former finance minister Edward Scicluna’s claim that he was not involved in the planning or decisions concerning the costings of the Delimara LNG plant, were “senseless”.

He was involved, Schembri said, “naturally enough and perforce, together with the permanent secretary Alfred Camilleri. It was no kitchen Cabinet… it was the Cabinet.”