Busuttil: Parties not given preferential treatment on unpaid utility bills

PN leader Simon Busuttil refuses to confirm whether party has up to €1.9 million in outstanding utility bills

Despite having failed to pay utility bills for long years without facing any consequences, the Nationalist and Labour parties have not been treated any differently to regular consumers according to PN leader Simon Busuttil.

Denying that the two major parties had been given preferential treatment over the payment terms of their utility bills, Busuttil told MaltaToday “political parties must pay their bills, like any other person or entity, and that is exactly what the Nationalist Party will do.”

Asked to confirm whether his party has up to €1.9 million in unpaid bills, Busuttil said: “I do not confirm. This is commercial and financial information and its not my job to divulge such information.”

On Sunday, MaltaToday revealed that the Nationalist and Labour parties have outstanding bills of a combined €2.5 million, which they have owed to Enemalta and the Water Services Corporations for years.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat agreed that political parties must pay their water and electricity bills, just like everyone else.

This newspaper can now state that the PN has bills running up to €1.9 million, while Labour owes ARMS – the Automated Revenue Management Service – some €600,000 for electricity and water. Muscat himself has since confirmed this figure.

The information confirms years of speculation that both parties have enjoyed secret amnesties on their electricity and water bills.

ARMS have beefed up their credit control department as they put more pressure on many of their clients to pay up for their accumulated electricity and water bills.

But as things stand, neither Labour nor the heavily-indebted Nationalist Party are in any state of financial health to settle the pending amounts.

In reaction to the revelations, Alternattiva Demokratika have challenged energy minister Konrad Mizzi to explain why the major political parties owe €2.5 million in energy and water bills and how ARMS will recover the outstanding amounts.

Today ARMS is headed by chief executive Carmen Ciantar, a Labour activist who was publicly visible during electoral rallies as part of the selected audience seated behind Joseph Muscat. Even Enemalta’s new chief executive, Frederick Azzopardi, was elected for Labour on the Mdina local council; while former chairman Charles Mangion was later elected to the House on a casual election.

While political parties retain an influential hold on publicly-owned corporations, various clients who defaulted on their dues have been presented with judicial letters to pay up within a stipulated time, or have their services disconnected.

Both MaltaToday and the Times of Malta have lodged freedom of information requests on the matter.

Both parties have refused to entertain requests to disclose the amounts they owe. In previous comments, the Nationalist Party said any repayment agreements its companies had with public entities were commercial matters.