Updated | PM says Busuttil is sending mixed signals over ‘unacceptable’ €35 million PV contract

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat blasts Simon Busuttil's mixed signals over controversial €35 million PV panels contract.

Adds PN statement

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has this morning blasted Simon Busuttil for shifting his position on the controversial €35 million PV panels contract awarded by former PN minister George Pullicino’s ministry, warning amongst others that the government will “uncover more issues, and that those responsible will have to shoulder responsibility.”

Describing the contract as “extremely worrying,” and “unacceptable,” the prime minister said that Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil is sending mixed signals over whether he would defend George Pullicino.

“Simon Busuttil first declared that he is ready to investigate George Pullicino, yet in a recent interview, he has stated that he will stand by him,” Muscat said. 

In the midst of the political controversy over government’s failure to deliver a new power plant by March 2015, energy minister Konrad 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.

Subsequently, the government announced that it had asked the Police to investigate the now-cancelled contract after it was awarded to a company despite providing an unsigned bank document in their bid.

“The contract is extremely worrying because it was based on a bank letter whose veracity the same bank could not confirm. At the time, the same bank did not exist as it had been taken over,” Muscat said.

Former resources minister George Pullicino has distanced himself of the report, claiming that he had nothing to do with the awarding of the tender or the selection process.

However, in a tit-for-tat battle, the government – most notably, energy minister Konrad Mizzi – has insisted that Pullicino was lying and that he must now explain because he had “personally delivered the letter of intent.”

Moreover, on Friday evening, the government published two letters showing that the Department of Contracts and the Malta Resources Authority had nothing to do with the issuing and adjudicating of the contract.

Conversely, the government said that Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs – at the time led by former PN minister George Pullicino  - was solely responsible,

“This would have been unacceptable even if a street cleansing contract. Just like I would expect a mayor to shoulder the responsibility in such a scenario, the same should be done in this case,” the prime minister said.

“When the time comes, we will uncover more issues and we will make sure that anyone who was responsible will shoulder the responsibility,” the prime minister warned.

Turning his attention on the PN’s call for compensation for properties used by the Labour Party, Muscat argued that the proposal does not make sense.

On Wednesday, PN Secretary General Chris Said said that in an effort to maintain a level playing field, the Nationalist Party should be compensated for the disadvantage because the Labour Party was profiting from state-owned properties.

Dismissing the PN’s call, Muscat said that the Labour Party would abide by the law and the decisions of the court.

However, in a statement, the PN insisted that Muscat should give the state-owned property that he “stole” back to the country. Moreover, the PN took umbrage at the prime minister for not saying anything about the Delimara power station or the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA).

“It is ironic that Muscat thinks that he can convince the country that he is honest by trumpeting his government’s feats, but in reality, the facts show the opposite. It is also ironic that Muscat focused on attacking the Opposition leader, yet he did not find any time to talk about the Delimara power station,” he said.

“It beggars belief that Muscat was talking about the needs of the country, yet he gives his spokesman €58,000 a year – a stark contrast to the 58c that the Maltese families will receive,” the PN said in a muted reference to the salary given to Labour whip and government spokesman Carmelo Abela.