Previous testimony by disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat and responses to parliamentary questions by Finance Minister Clyde Caruana were corrected in testimony by Enemalta Chairman Ryan Fava in a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
Fava’s responses to the committee’s questions exposed inconsistencies in Muscat’s testimony at the PAC in September relating to savings the national energy company Enemalta was entitled to.
They also contradicted Caruana’s parliamentary answers on who pays the excise taxes on the generated electricity.
The meeting, a continuation of the committee’s protracted examination of the National Audit Office’s (NAO) report on the contracts awarded to Electrogas by Enemalta in 2013, was characterised by infighting between members across party lines.
The Auditor General’s report highlighted “various shortcomings” and described major, often undocumented, flaws in the selection and evaluation process.
It revealed taxpayers were overcharged by millions of euros, with the Auditor General expressing “serious reservations” about an “irregular” and “unprecedented” €360 million loan guarantee given to Electrogas by the government.
Fava, who has served as Enemalta’s Chairman since July 2022, explained that Enemalta did not benefit from a clause in its contract with the Electrogas consortium entitling it to a cut of the supplier’s savings, rubbishing Muscat’s claims in an earlier PAC sitting.
He said this was because there was never an oversupply of gas in the Floating Storage Unit (FSU) to be sold off and profited from.
The clause entitled Enemalta to 10% of the savings was subsequently never triggered. During a PAC meeting last September, Muscat had claimed these savings translated to $2.2 million annually.
In the same meeting, Fava also contradicted statements Muscat made, where he assured the PAC that Enemalta had access to Electrogas’ heat rates, data used to convert gas prices into electricity charges representing the plant’s overall efficiency.
The Enemalta chairman said that while Electrogas had access to Enemalta’s heat rate obligations, they did not have access to the actual rates but “did not need them,” as they would verify efficiency through their own calculations. He also said the rate is variable, with the singular figure provided by Muscat being misrepresentative.
Following questions by Opposition MP Darren Carabott, Fava said Enemalta, rather than Electrogas, was paying the excise tax owed to public coffers for electricity generation.
Before Fava could explain the discrepancy in answers, Carabott was cut off by MP and government whip Andy Ellul, who claimed such questions were outside the committee’s remit.
The meeting ended with an agreement for the committee to reconvene privately to view a copy of the Electrogas conversion term agreement, which Fava said was commercially sensitive and could not be viewed publicly.
Fava had replaced the previous chairman, Jonathan Scerri, who resigned in June 2022 without an official explanation.
The Shift has reported how the PAC’s investigation of the Electrogas contract has been bogged down and derailed, having started three years ago and facing constant delay-and-denial tactics from those testifying.