Updated | Letters show former resources ministry was solely responsible for PV contract

Letters issued by government show €35m contract for the installation of photovoltaic panels was awarded by former Resources Ministry led by George Pullicino

Minister Konrad Mizzi showing the photo of former resources minister George Pullicino presenting the letter of intent to a member of the Solarig consortium
Minister Konrad Mizzi showing the photo of former resources minister George Pullicino presenting the letter of intent to a member of the Solarig consortium

Two letters issued by government show that the Department of Contracts and the Malta Resources Authority had nothing to do with a €35m contract for the installation of photovoltaic panels on public buildings which energy minister Konrad Mizzi insists was directly awarded by the former Resources Ministry led by George Pullicino.

The Contracts Department clearly stated that it had "absolutely no involvement" in the Expression of Interest process and a very limited role in the Tender process, adding that the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs (MRRA) was solely responsible. 

“The Department of Contracts was not involved in the issuing, evaluation, adjudication, clarifications and short listing of the bidders in the Expression of Interest process,”the department’s director general Anthony Cachia said.

Cachia also noted that the MRRA had “classified the contract as a Public Service Concession (hence outside the Public Contracts Regulations). Hence the involvement of the Department of Contracts in the process leading to the award of this tender was extremely limited.”

Moreover the letter said that the then MRRA Permanent Secretary Chris Ciantar had requested the contracts department “to delegate him for the signing of the Letter of Intent” which he duly issued.  

Another letter, this time signed by MRA's CEO Anthony Rizzo, shows that the authority did not decide on the feed-in tariff but it was based on Ciantar's presentation.

In the midst of the political controversy over government’s failure to deliver a new power plant by March 2015, Mizzi said that an audit investigation had found "shameful irregularities" in a €35 million contract for the installation of photovoltaic panels on public buildings, awarded to a Spanish company and Maltese firm Alberta, under Pullicino’s watch before the 2013 general election.

The 25-year contract worth €35 million was awarded to the company at a feed-in tariff of nearly 23c, which Mizzi said was above the market price of 16c.

"I never had anything to do with the selection process," Pullicino said in a direct confrontation with Mizzi in tonight's Xarabank. Contrary to what the two letters show. Pullicino has so far insisted that the contract was approved by the Finance Ministry and the Malta Resources Authority. 

To date, Pullicino has not yet been requested by the police to give his version of the facts more than a week after asking the police commissioner to investigate Mizzi’s accusations.

In reaction to yesterday’s revelations, Pullicino issued a statement in which he reiterated that he was never involved in the selection process.

The MP said that Mizzi “was once again resorting to a series of lies with Joseph Muscat’s blessing.”

“What Konrad Mizzi said was nothing new as the content of the letters was already revealed by the former MRRA permanent secretary Chris Ciantar in a letter he issued last week.”

Pullicino added that “unlike current ministers” he never interfered in the selection process.

Failed promises

The Nationalist MP accused government of failing to deliver on its electoral promises in the energy sector, including the construction of the new gas power plant.

“They are not credible, they promised to remove the cancer factory in Delimara, but this government is a factory of lies,” Pullicino said.

Mizzi retorted that 18 months ago, Malta had energy tariffs which were among the highest in Europe and an energy sector in complete disarray.

“We will shift energy generation to gas, however upon being elected we had to sort out the mess which we found Enemalta, otherwise it would have dragged down the country and the banking sector.”

The minister insisted that the electoral promise made was that of reducing energy tariffs, adding that although government’s plans for a new power plant had to be delayed, this would still be implemented.

Despite repeated questions by Pullicino, Mizzi declined to commit himself to a date when the power plant will be completed.