Pullicino: Energy meter scam a Labourite ‘racket’

Opposition MP George Pullicino says energy meter scam was a Labourite plot to damage Enemalta under previous administration, energy minister taunts him that it could be his last speech as his shadow 

George Pullicino (Photo: Ray Attard)
George Pullicino (Photo: Ray Attard)

Opposition MP George Pullicino yesterday claimed that the energy meter scam, which saw Enemalta lose millions in stolen energy, was a nothing but a “racket of Labourites.”

As Parliament continued discussing Enemalta’s financial estimates which were approved yesterday evening, Pullicino said the scam “stinks” and claimed that government and energy minister Konrad Mizzi were concealing the real magnitude of the scandal.

“The scam is nothing but a racket of Labourites in order to see Enemalta lose money under the previous administration,” he claimed, adding that all employees who were suspended by the corporation were well known Labour supporters.

To date, two Enemalta employees have been found guilty of being involved in the scam, with a number of other employees facing similar charges. 

In reply to Pullicino’s speech, energy minister Konrad Mizzi said “it seems that the opposition has not learnt a thing from the loss at the polls in the European elections,” adding that rumours had it that PN leader Simon Busuttil was about to change his shadow cabinet, telling Pullicino “this could well be your last speech as my shadow.”

Pointing out that the energy theft scam happened “under the PN government’s watch,” Mizzi said that Pullicino should be “ashamed” for making such accusations when the previous administration had done absolutely nothing to tackle the scam.

“The government had a clear plan for Enemalta. We were committed to bring the corporation back to its feet and the country can bear witness to our success,” Mizzi said, adding that credit agencies and the EU have confirmed this.

“We inherited a corporation with €800 million in debts but in just one year we have seen debt levels reduce by half and around €400 million in new investment.”

He added that under Labour, Enemalta improved its management, reduced its costs, reduced pollution, increased efficiency, reduced energy tariffs and was on its way to decommission the ancient Marsa power plant and the Delimara first phase plant.

Government’s broken promises

In his passionate speech, Pullicino also asked why the Labour administration had granted an amnesty to consumers who came forward with information on the case.

Yesterday, Mizzi informed Parliament that 428 consumers had approached Enemalta to regularise their position over the tampered smart meters.

In February, government had given consumers who used tampered smart meters six weeks to regularise their position and provide information on the scandal.

At the turn of the year, Mizzi had revealed that up to 1,000 smart meters were found to have been tampered with, including 200 smart meters which belonged to businesses.

“Who is the Prime Minister protecting? Are any ministers or close aides involved?” Pullicino asked.

The former PN minister also lambasted government’s “secrecy” over its failure to publish the contracts signed for the part-privatisation of the corporation with the Chinese-state owned company Shanghai Electric Power who will be purchasing the BWSC plant for €220 million, €70 million of which will go for the conversion of the plant to gas.

In addition, he said, government has yet to publish the contract signed with Electrogas Malta Consortium which was awarded the power purchase and gas supply agreements by Enemalta.

“This government promised transparency but it’s full of secrets,” Pullicino said, adding that the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had started negotiations with the Chinese government when he still was leader of the opposition.

“We have nothing against the Chinese government but it must be said that there was no call. The Chinese company was chosen directly and only god knows what the deal really involves,” he said.

Pointing out that the opposition is against losing energy sovereignty and flexibility, Pullicino said “now the energy sector will be controlled by private and foreign interests.”

Insisting that the deal with the Chinese company violated Labour’s promise not to privatise the corporation, he asked “will you sell any more shares at Enemalta?”

Another broken promise, Pullicino said, was the Prime Minister’s promise that all Enemalta employees would maintain their take-home-pay. He explained that during a meeting held this week, Enemalta employees were given four options.

“Enemalta employees were given an option to join Shanghai Electric Power on a three-year contract in Malta, the second option was that of joining Shanghai Electric Power in Europe also on a definite contract, the third to join Electrogas on a definite contract and the fourth option given was that of staying at Enemalta on basic pay, meaning they would lose their shift allowances.”

In his reply, the energy minister did not make an outright denial, but explained that the Enemalta employees who would move to external companies would be seconded and the option to work abroad was an “opportunity.”