During another Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing about the Electrogas power station deal, four former directors from Enemalta all claimed that they were not aware of a meeting held in Castille during which the Electrogas consortium was selected as the winning bidder a day before they met to ‘ratify’ the decision.
During Thursday’s hearing, four witnesses testified in front of the PAC: former Enemalta board of directors chairman Charles Mangion and three other former board members, Lara Boffa, Steve Agius and Jonathan Scerri.
All of the four witnesses who testified on Thursday said they were not aware of a meeting held on 11 October 2013 at Castille, which included former Enemalta CEO Louis Giordimaina and former evaluation committee chair David Galea, as well as disgraced former energy minister Konrad Mizzi.
The day after that meeting, five out of seven board members met to vote on the deal, a meeting in which Galea and Giordimaina gave a presentation to the board which provided an overview of how Electrogas was selected as the preferred bidder.
Enemalta’s decision, described by Mangion, Agius and Scerri as a “ratification” of a process that had already occurred through the evaluation stages, was taken based on this presentation. The Castille meeting was not mentioned the following day.
In the initial phase of the sitting, Mangion was asked about a letter published by The Shift from Enemalta that showed the proposed Melita TransGas pipeline project would provide Electrogas shareholders with a massive, tax-free payout of around €84 million to compensate for the loss of ownership of infrastructure.
Government MPs immediately objected to this line of inquiry, referring to The Shift as “just a blog” in a ten-minute argument about the matter, as government MPs attempted to deviate from the evidence of official documents published to discredit the news organisation in a move that is now typical of government functionaries.
But none of them took responsibility when faced with questions by Opposition MPs on the committee, Darren Carabott, David Agius and Graham Bencini. Mangion said he had not seen this letter during his time as a director of Enemalta.
Boffa was the only board member to vote against the Electrogas consortium. When asked why she had voted against the project, Boffa said she “felt that something was missing” and “couldn’t endorse the bid as it was proposed”.
When asked whether other board members attempted to achieve consensus, Boffa said it was a yes or no decision and that there was no follow-up discussion about the vote.
Boffa and the other witnesses who followed confirmed that they had consistently received updates from the committees in the lead-up to the decision primarily based on the information they provided.
When asked whether they had seen any due diligence documentation, any documents from the five-stage process that led to the decision, any review of the points system used to assess shortlisted bidders, and whether they discussed the changes which occurred midway through the evaluation process, all witnesses said they could not recall whether this was the case.
Opposition MPs on the PAC also asked all witnesses whether they were prepared for the PAC hearings and whether the former evaluation committee Chair David Galea or Enemalta had approached them. All the witnesses denied this.
During their testimonies, Agius and Scerri defended their decision to vote in favour of the project. Agius argued that the proposal was “financially sound” and “strategically fit” for Enemalta’s needs, while Scerri outright contested the National Audit Office’s (NAO) report about the deal.
In his remarks, which are set to be reassessed during the next PAC session on 13 September, Scerri said there were several aspects of the deal which the NAO had not factored in when assessing it. The NAO will also be presenting its rebuttal during the next hearing.