In another Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing that ended with another call for a ruling from the Speaker, the PAC agreed to summon five former members of Enemalta’s board of directors, former finance minister Edward Scicluna and Electrogas director, Ray Fenech.
The never-ending delays with the investigation have been exacerbated further by the fact that, during the previous sitting, government MPs insisted on a rationale for every witness to be summoned, ostensibly in the name of “expediency”.
The committee was discussing the follow-up to an investigation into the Electrogas deal initiated following a damning National Audit Office (NAO) report published in 2018, with the most recent sitting held on 2 June.
The NAO report had outlined how taxpayers were overcharged millions of euros, with the Auditor General expressing “serious reservations” about the €360 million loan guarantee gifted to Electrogas from the government – an “irregular” and “unprecedented” practice.
The bone of contention that led Opposition MP Graham Bencini to call for a ruling from Speaker Anġlu Farrugia was whether or not to summon police commissioner Angelo Gafa’ as one of the witnesses in relation to the committee’s investigation on the deal.
The ruling will officially be called for later on in the week given that the Speaker is currently abroad.
The committee, which today consisted of government MPs Clayton Bartolo, Glenn Bedingfield, Alex Muscat and Andy Ellul, and Opposition MPs Darren Carabott, David Agius and Graham Bencini, disagreed over whether police investigations into the deal were part of the PAC’s remit.
Citing the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives, the laws that regulate all parliamentary committees, government MPs argued that the PAC does not have the legal right to look into police investigations since its remit is only limited to analysis of public accounts.
In their rebuttals, Opposition MPs argued that the intention to summon Gafa’, who faced calls for his resignation just last week over the police’s mishandling of the Iosif Galea case, was to ask the police commissioner about whether they saw any need to take action following the 2018 NAO report.
Bedingfield even accused the Opposition MPs on the parliamentary committee of wanting to prejudice police investigations, which led to the Chair switching off the MP’s microphone as the yelling across the room took over the so-called debate on a critical investigation for the country.
The PAC will now be waiting for a ruling from the Speaker to decide whether the committee has the legal right to summon the police commissioner. In the meantime, the committee will also be calling up the other seven witnesses on which they have agreed. The PAC resolved to summon all five members of the board at the time.
As per agreement during the last sitting, which was mainly spent debating on whether or not the Opposition should run its witness list past government MPs for approval before those witnesses are summoned, the PAC will also dedicate sessions to discussing a report selected by government MPs.
The report chosen by government MPs refers to a review of the implementation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal One, the call to end all poverty.