Government’s ‘incompetence’ saved Malta €130 million - Busuttil

PN leader Simon Busuttil questions timing of contract of privatisation of three hospitals, says budget was 'superficial and cosmetic

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil addresses a meeting of the PN's sectional committees
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil addresses a meeting of the PN's sectional committees

The government’s "incompetence" to meet its deadline for the new LNG power station saved the taxpayer up to €130 million as electricity was being purchased cheaply through the interconnector, PN leader Simon Busuttil said today.

Speaking to party faithful in Santa Venera, Busuttil, who has repeatedly decried the power plant as an “unnecessary” burden for taxpayers, said an independent analysis commissioned by the Nationalist Party had shown that if the government’s flagship project met its March 2015 deadline, an additional €130 million would have had to be forked out. 

The study also revealed that Malta’s interconnector with Sicily had been responsible for keeping the prices of electricity down over the last two years, and highlighted the additional costs the government would be incurring after it tied itself down to buy all the electricity generated by the new Electrogas power plant at a more expensive rate.

“The contract does not make sense at all, and it is no wonder that we suspect of corruption. This is blatant robbery. No wonder the government refused to reduce the electricity bills, and no wonder that the minister [Konrad Mizzi] who negotiated the Electrogas contract also opened a secret company in Panama,” he said.

Busuttil’s main bone of contention lies at the fact that currently the daily average price of electricity of the interconnector stands at 4c7 per unit. On the other hand, the government has agreed to purchase all the electricity generated by Electrogas, the consortium behind the LNG power plant, at a rate of 9c6 per unit for the next 18 years.

Ont his basis, the PN leader insisted that regardless of the contractual agreement, a future Nationalist administration would buy electricity from the cheaper source, even if this meant disregarding the Electrogas contract.

Lambasting the consultation process on the power station as a “farce”, Busuttil called on the chairman of the Environment Resources Authority, Victor Axiak, not to let the authority be used by the government.

“The government first built the power station, brought the LNG tanker to the power plant, and only now it is in the process of obtaining a permit to operate it. The consultation process is superfluous because the permit will still be issued,” he claimed.

The Opposition leader also raised questions on the “timing” of the contract between the government and Vitals Global Healthcare, the company given a 30-year concession to run three hospitals in Malta and Gozo, and suggested that former energy and health minister Konrad Mizzi and OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri may have profited from the deal.

“The contract to privatise the hospitals was signed on November 30, 2015, and just two days later, Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri gave [Nexia partner] Brian Tonna the go-ahead to open up bank accounts in Panama, in which they pledged to place €1 million every year,” he said.

The PN leader said Mizzi, who was stripped of his energy and health portfolios, was in fact “more worried” about opening up a bank account in Panama than the contract of these three hospitals. He said that Mizzi’s attitude had shown that the government lost all sense of decency, and that the only way for the country to regain control is to “kick them out form the government”.

Busuttil was also critical of the publication of the contracts, arguing that the heavily redacted versions contained several missing pages and made a mockery of the government’s transparency pledge. Health minister Chris Fearne said the contracts were being published with commercially-sensitive parts being censored out.

Busuttil slams budgetary measures as 'superficial and cosmetic'

Earlier, Busuttil, who on Monday will give his official reaction to the Budget, slammed the budgetary measures as “superficial and cosmetic”.

“Rather than seeing the budget as a chance to help those in need, the government saw it as an opportunity to gain political mileage.”

“No concrete proposals were proposed to truly help the country, but most of all, the budget exposed the government’s lack of long-term vision. It failed to address the struggles of minimum-wage earners, it forgot the middle class and those in the manufacturing industry, and failed the Caritas Poverty test,” he said.

The PN leader also quipped that it was ironic that the government had introduced a tax on soap when it was the “most corrupt in history”. 

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