Former ministers shrug off responsibility over dubious PV project contract

Former resources minister George Pullicino asks Commissioner of Police to investigate allegations

File photo: Former resources minister George Pullicino (right) says he was not involved in the tender for the Solarig PV contract
File photo: Former resources minister George Pullicino (right) says he was not involved in the tender for the Solarig PV contract

Former Nationalist resources minister George Pullicino has written to the Police Commissioner asking him to investigate claims by government minister Konrad Mizzi, that the Nationalist government had given a €35 million feed-in tariff contract binding the country for 25 years.

Pullicino has washed his hands of claims that a bank guarantee presented by the selected contractor for a government photovoltaic panel project, could have been the result of fraud.

“The police have the faculty to make the questions necessary – we don’t just allege corruption to hide our shortcomings or avoid answering questions,” Pullicino retorted.

The former minister yesterday said that the PV contract was under the finance ministry’s responsibility at the time.

Flanked by Tonio Fenech during a press conference, the former minister shrugged any responsibility. "If the finance ministry was involved, it would have been at the technical level in terms of the feed in-tariffs. Permanent secretary Alfred Camilleri is still there and you can ask him. I was not personally involved in it.”

The government has asked the police to investigate the €35 million contract issued under the previous administration to Solarig Holding because a document from Bancaja Bank certifying that the company had the necessary liquidity to deliver the 4.5MW project, lacked the necessary signatures. “We found a document that should have been issued by the bank, but which lacked the necessary signature. When the bank was contacted, they said that no such document could have been issued from them without the signature,” Konrad Mizzi said in parliament.

In June, MaltaToday revealed that the internal audit and investigations department (IAID) was investigating the €35 million photovoltaic contract awarded to the Alberta Photovoltaic Consortium before the March 2013 election.

According to the contract, the 23c feed-in tariff payable to Alberta, which will install PV panels over government building roofs, was much higher than the 16c cost of energy per kilowatt-hours that normal residences pay.

Pullicino played down Mizzi’s claims. “No minister decided any tender in our times. I never reversed any decisions taken by the privatization unit, nor did I give my wife €13,000 a month to serve as a public official. I have nothing to hide and this morning I wrote to the Commissioner of Police to investigate anything he wants. I hope that this investigation takes place.”

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil accused Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of mud-slinging and of acting like a schoolyard bully.

“Our job is to criticise the government and we can’t accept a bullying government. When the prime minister has his back to the wall, he bullies. During the Budget he used the John Dalli report, waving it around, shouting about corruption at the hospital. What happened? Nothing. Muscat uses corruption to throw dirt at others and we don’t accept this tactic of bullying.”

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