The Malta Independent 26 April 2019, Friday

TMID Editorial: The Commissioner, Konrad and the NAO - Of remits and cherry-picking

Thursday, 17 January 2019, 13:33 Last update: about 4 months ago

There appears to be something of a misunderstanding about the Delimara power station project, a misunderstanding and a blurring of the lines between what is, essentially, a great project for the country and what was a very suspicious deal to say the least. 

The two are most definitely not mutually exclusive.

The fact of the matter is that it is no longer just us or other sections of the independent media that have flagged the problems, but also the country’s own National Audit Office.

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But in the face of that, former energy minister Konrad Mizzi - the person originally responsible for the project, and indeed for the energy sector as a whole until he had his wrist slapped and the sector removed from his portfolio after having been exposed in the Panama Papers all those moons ago – is still bent on twisting the truth when it comes to the deal.

The latest incident reared its ugly head just this week when his ministry quoted, verbatim, cherry-picked parts of a reply this newspaper received from the European Commission about the now infamous National Audit Office’s investigation into the deal.

The ministry seems to have somehow got its hands on this newspaper’s replies from the European commissioner responsible for energy union, whose staff went to lengths to explain the material benefits of the project, but who refused to go into the merits of the NAO’s findings from a few weeks back.

Now while the ministry quite gleefully reported how the Commissioner praised the project’s underlying ethos: the benefits when it comes to air pollution, the use of state of the art technologies, how it mixed different types of energy and the like, it clearly ignored the part where the Commission says that it was unable to get involved in the National Audit Office’s multiple findings that there was something wrong in the due diligence and procurement procedures related to the power station, saying that commenting on the NAO’s recent damning findings would be ‘beyond its remit’.

Over and above that, the Commission said that it ‘expects that Malta will follow up on the NAO report according to its own procedures’ and that ‘it is not for the Commission to comment on the findings of the National Audit Office’ as the findings are, again, ‘beyond its remit’.

The Commission is quite clearly unable to interfere in the process that has been set rolling with the NAO report, which will eventually need to be put through the proper national processes, but the ministry makes no mention of this aspect to the story of this whatsoever.

It is as though the auditor general’s a 600-page report slamming a government minister’s dealings had never even been published, even though the report explains in sordid, finite detail - leaving just the dots in the middle to be joined.

The pure fact of the matter is that no one can argue that the conversion of the Delimara power plants to natural gas was an environmental and health boon for the country, which has moved to the second-cleanest energy source available under the Mizzi’s stewardship.

No one has, in fact, argued with that and no one could. 

We say the second-cleanest for the country because the interconnector is undoubtedly the cleanest source available, having no energy produced in the country at all, and, it is also the cheapest, as also pointed out by the auditor general.

While this newspaper faithfully reported the full extent of the Commission’s replies fairly, the ministry chooses to publish, through the Department of Information, just the favourable parts.

And they call us fake news, go figure.

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