Pullicino says Finance Ministry and MRA responsible for €35 million PV contract

Opposition energy spokesman George Pullicino says that the Finance Ministry and the Malta Resources Authority were responsible for a contract that included an unsigned bank document 

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AD secretary general Ralph Cassar tells government to reveal its power station plans

The Finance Ministry and the Malta Resources Authority were responsible for a €35 million photovoltaic contract issued by the previous Nationalist government, a document of which was found without the necessary bank signature, Opposition energy spokesman George Pullicino said on Monday’s edition of Reporter. At the time the contract was issued, Tonio Fenech was Finance Minister while Pullicino was Environment and Rural Affairs Minister.

Earlier on Monday, Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi told Parliament that a document in connection with a tender issued by Pullicino’s ministry to a private company for feed-in tariffs included an unsigned bank document, supposedly issued by Spanish bank Bacaja. Mizzi said that the bank had told auditors that “it was impossible that the document was issued by us”. Speaking on Reporter, Mizzi said that Pullicino had "a lot of political responsibility to shoulder".
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. The 25-year contract covers the installation of photovoltaic panels on the roofs of government buildings. Investigations were launched after the government refused to honour the contract, claiming that the contract would oblige taxpayers to fork out €11 million more to the private firm on feed-in tariffs for energy sold to Enemalta from solar panels.
According to the contract, the feed-in tariff payable to Alberta is much higher than the cost of energy per kilowatt-hours that normal residences pay. The contract was signed with a feed-in tariff payable at 23 cents, when it should have been at 16 cents. Mizzi said that the police have been asked to investigate.

“One of the previous government’s consultants over that tender is still consulting Mizzi and the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Finance back then still has the same job,” Pullicino said, adding that Mizzi’s allegations were an attempt to “smear his name”.  

Mizzi said that the government has agreed a seven-year-plan with Chinese state-owned Shanghai Electric Power, after which Enemalta will start making money again. He added that the government has already over-reached their first-year target by €33 million. The Chinese company has agreed to buy the BWSC plant at Delimara for €220 million, to convert its running from oil to gas, and to inject a further €100 million into the setting up of Enemalta plc.  

“The Chinese investment was essential for Enemalta to keep existing sustainably,” Mizzi said. “Enemalta was insolvent when we inherited it, there was no investment in the petroleum division, and there was corruption in the selling of oil. Yet we managed to attract an AAA-rated company with a positive vision to invest in it. It will also convert its running from heavy fuel to gas, which means that carbon emissions will be reduced by half and that dust emissions from chimneys will be reduced by 90%.”

Yet Pullicino said that the government didn’t manage to solve Enemalta’s problems because Enemalta “doesn’t exist anymore”, referring to the setting up of Enemalta plc and two companies, Petromal Company and Enemed Company. He also challenged the government to publish the contracts signed between the government and Shanghai Electric Company.  

Pullicino also asked Mizzi what happened to the €30 million that the ElectroGas consortium were supposed to pay upfront to the government, claiming that it had “disappeared”. Mizzi said that this was not the case.

He also repeatedly asked Mizzi to set a new deadline for the construction of a gas power station at Delimara after the government announced that it would not be able to meet its original deadline of March 2015 . Parliament had met on Monday to discuss this delayed construction and the financial losses incurred by this delay, following a motion tabled by the Opposition. However, the government did not set a new deadline.
Insiders have told MaltaToday that the agreement with the Electrogas consortium had to be revised when SEP acquired a 33% stake in Enemalta plc in March 2014, and became the owners of the Delimara power station extension.

“The gas power station was [Prime Minister] Joseph Muscat’s great pre-electionary project and him and Mizzi repeated so many times that it will be completed after two years,” Pullicino said. “Muscat clearly said that he would resign if this deadline was not met and now he is trying to run away from what he had promised. Muscat said as recently as July that the original deadline would be kept. This is despite an international specialized magazine reporting a month earlier that the project had fallen behind so much that it won’t even be completed by September 2015.”

Mizzi said that the delay was due to Enemalta, ElectroGas, and Shanghai Electric Power having to coordinate and agree on issues related to the future conversion of gas. He also said that a maritime assessment study on the area around the future location of the gas power station is ongoing, with the help of foreign experts.  

“I have no doubt that we will deliver,” Mizzi said, adding that the government has already started delivering in the energy sector where the previous one had failed, such as by reducing electricty and water tariffs for families and by starting the process of dismantling the Marsa Power Station. He added that further tariff reductions for businesses are set to be confirmed in March. 

Live current affairs programme Reporter is presented by Saviour Balzan and produced by MediaToday. The programme’s new format includes lawyer Ramona Frendo as a resident opinionist.

Reporter is aired live every Monday at 9.45pm on TVM 1