PAC: Labour minister gives witness abridged questions in advance

Minister Clayton Bartolo passed on his questions for economist Gordon Cordina ahead of him testifying in front of the public accounts committee

Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

Labour minister Clayton Bartolo, who sits on the public accounts committee, was caught passing on a rough draft of his questions to economist Gordon Cordina ahead of him testifying in front of the committee.

At the end of the committee meeting on Tuesday, PAC chairman Darren Carrabott asked the witness whether he received any questions in advance.

Cordina said that he had received an SMS and an attached document with a list of questions from Clayton Bartolo. The witness said the questions were indicative of what was asked in Tuesday’s session.

Carabott asked that the text message and attachments with the questions for Tuesday’s sessions be exhibited to the committee.

Tuesday’s public accounts committee meeting focused on a 2011 study analysing the use of gasoil, gas and heavy fuel oil, conducted by economist Gordon Cordina.

Cordina, who is also chairman of Bank of Valletta, explained that Enemalta is a direct client of his consultancy firm E-Cubed.

In 2011, Enemalta gave Cordina a brief to look at the different choices the Maltese government had at hand to to power a new energy station. The study involved an options analysis of the financial costs of operating the power station with different types of fuel.

Cordina said he compared the expenses of using heavy fuel oil compared to those of using gasoil and to the cost of converting the power station to use LNG.

The study concluded that heavy fuel oil was ideal in the short-term, given that it was slightly cheaper than LNG. However, Cordina said he had also recommended that the government consider developing infrastructure for LNG when it becomes feasible to do so.

“That was the global tendency back then,” Cordina said on the use of heavy fuel oil. “In the same way that now, the global tendency is to build for renewables.”

Cordina said the study found that using LNG would be 6.3% more expensive than using heavy fuel oil when you take into account the financial and economic expenses of the two. But when account for the financial expenses only, the study found that the change to gas would be 23% more expensive than using heavy fuel oil.

Speaking generally about electricity, Carabott said there are vulnerabilities in different areas of the local electricity supply that gives Malta a competitive disadvantage.

“We can never be competitive. Our competitiveness is sensitive to energy. That’s why it’s always such a sensitive element. That’s why it’s important that, int he context of this disadvantage, we plan to lower these factors or remove them entirely. Keep energy prices low, or at least keep them stable.”

Cordina said businesses enjoy being able to plan their energy costs in advance and plan out their business strategy in Malta. He added that electricity affects the production of many goods and services produced by consumers.

During the plenary session, Carabott requested the Speaker’s ruling on the matter.