Former Enemalta CEO Karl Camilleri should never have taken out sensitive information when he left the state corporation, the acting chairman at the time told parliament’s Public Accounts Committee this evening.
William Spiteri Bailey, an auditor who served as Enemalta’s acting chairman between January and November 2011, said that when he allowed Mr Camilleri to take his laptop, he did so under the assumption that the information it contained would be wiped. Mr Camilleri had asked for the laptop when he met then-minister Tonio Fenech, and the request was approved by the minister and by Enemalta’s board.
When Mr Camilleri addressed the PAC – which is discussing the National Audit Office’s report on Enemalta’s fuel procurement between 2008 and 2011 – he also confirmed that he had taken “working documents” he held in his safe when he left the corporation, only to be made to return them.
Mr Spiteri Bailey insisted that the former CEO was wrong to do so in response to questions by government MP Justyne Caruana.
“Obviously, he should have sought permission. Well, not even that: those documents should never have left Enemalta,” he told the committee.
Mr Spiteri Bailey was responsible for issuing the first written policy for the fuel procurement, although he made it a point to credit his predecessor, acting chairman Edmund Gatt Baldacchino, for starting the process by asking PricewaterhouseCoopers to draft a report.
Answering questions by Parliamentary Secretary Owen Bonnici – who vouched for the former chairman’s integrity before starting his questions – Mr Spiteri Bailey said that the policy was “rushed through” after a bid which was made by TOTSA in time for a meeting on 18 January 2011 was ignored, although it was later established not to meet specifications.
Mr Spiteri Bailey insisted that he did not act because he felt that things were not being done properly, but because he felt that the process had to appear to be transparent. He noted that as an auditor, the fact that bids were sent to the chairman’s email address concerned him: a separate email address was put in place as a result, ensuring that the bids were only accessed when the fuel procurement committee met to discuss them.
Asked to comment on the corruption allegations, he said that he felt let down by those who had worked on him, and was also saddened on behalf of the “overwhelming majority” of the corporation’s employees who gave their utmost. He stressed that despite apparent exchange of commissions, the fuel purchased still appeared to be the cheapest on offer.
At the start of the sitting, a letter by Enemalta’s internal audit manager, Antoine d’Ambrogio-Araci, was read out at the request of Dr Caruana, concerning shipments of out-of-spec fuel.
The auditor – who is set to be summoned in the future – noted that a particular shipment was accepted due to low stocks, but the supplier, Trafigura, was fined $250,000 and warned. The company made a number of out-of-spec deliveries in 2011, but was made to sign a contract in September of that year in which it pledged to keep average sulphur levels below the 0.7% threshold and to pay a $400,000 if future consignments were out-of-spec.
Enemalta’s financial risk manager Janice Mercieca then continued her testimony, in which she stressed that when the fuel procurement committee had no written policy, an unwritten policy was clearly in place: Mr Spiteri Bailey later noted that the first policy he instituted was itself based on existing procedures. She added that there was no indication of any wrongdoing when she started observing committee meetings, before she became an official committee member in 2011.
Both witnesses also insisted that there was no undue interference in the committee’s operations.
In her questions to Ms Mercieca, Dr Caruana referred to the shipment which led to Trafigura being fined $250,000: in which the sulphur level was found to be 0.986%, considerably above the 0.7% threshold.
But Ms Mercieca was not in a position to state what the difference in price would have been if Enemalta simply purchased fuel at a higher sulphur level – which is generally cheaper as it is less refined – noting that the corporation had stopped purchased 1% sulphur fuel in 2009.
The answer prompted Dr Caruana to question the witness’ competence as a financial risk manager, but after defending herself, Ms Mercieca explained that she would be able to obtain such information if requested. However, Ms Mercieca also pointed out that to meet the 0.7% average, Trafigura also delivered shipments whose sulphur levels were considerably lower than the threshold.
But Dr Caruana then pointed out that one of the shipments mentioned – delivered by the tanker Baltic Adonia – had actually exceeded acceptable levels of sodium. Ms Mercieca, on her part, stressed that her involvement in such issues was limited to the discussion of the fine levied on Trafigura.