Labour want Austin Gatt questioned by police - Ministry: Frank Sammut had contract terminated eight years ago

Mr Bartolo speaking at today's press conference, with Manuel Mallia (left).

Labour spokesman Evarist Bartolo said this afternoon that the police should call in minister Austin Gatt for questioning over the Oil Procurement Board he had set up, and how it was open to abuse.

He was speaking at a press conference.

Earlier, the Finance Ministry said that Frank Sammut, the person at the centre of controversy over kickbacks for oil purchases, had his contract with Mediterranean Offshore Bunkering Ltd terminated in 2004.

He had been appointed managing director of the company in 1997.

Mr Sammut was never an employee of Enemalta but was a member of its board until 1990 and consultant until 1994.

Yesterday, Infrastructure Minister Austin Gatt said he was never tipped off about anyone taking kickbacks or engaging in corruption.

It was reported yesterday that Frank Sammut, a member of the Oil Procurement Board, received thousands of dollars from Dutch oil firm Trafigura that supplied Enemalta with its fuel oil requirements.

The case dates back to 2004. The prime minister has asked the police to investigate

Dr Gatt said that in 2004 the board was enlarged to 10 members, who included Mr Sammut and representatives of the Finance Ministry, the oil division, the Central Bank and Enemalta.

“We nominated a board of 10 people where decisions were taken together, not one or two persons deciding alone,” Dr Gatt said.

Labour: Police should call in Austin Gatt for questioning

Meanwhile, Labour spokesman Evarist Bartolo said  this afternoon that the police should call in Austin Gatt (the minister responsible for Enemalta at the time) for questioning on the oil procurement system he set up in 2004.

Speaking at a press conference with Labour candidate Manuel Mallia, Mr Bartolo asked in whose interest in was for Enemalta to opt for oil-firing power stations instead of gas.

He said that since 1999 Malta had had a number of options to go for gas-fired power plants.

In 2006  MEPA wrote to Enemalta saying the only option for the extension of the power station was the use of gas

Enemalta in its generation report said it would go for gas and plans for diesel engines were abandoned.

In May 2007 Enemalta issued call for offers for the supply of LNG (gas).

The U-turn happened some months later and the  BWSC plant using  heavy fuel oil was accepted in 2009.

This u-turn was possible because environmental laws were changed, Mr Bartolo said.

In 2005, he recalled, the local BWSC representative had sent an email saying that higher political sources had to be tapped.

Labour candidate Manuel Mallia said the selection of the heavy fuel oil plant supplied by   

BWSC had always left open the question of why the government opted  for fuel oil when in 2006 it had adopted a policy to go for gas.

He said that last Sunday’s story in MaltaToday featured an invoice that referred to an Enemalta contract with numerical reference and all. This was an important piece of evidence because the commission was directly linked to the sale of oil to Enemalta. What normally happened was that the price of  the commodity was upped to make up for the commission paid.

If public finances are not managed well and this commission was paid irregularly than the money had to be refunded.

Mr Bartolo said that in Parliament the Opposition has long been  that the way oil was being procured was vitiated.

Former Nationalist MP Frank Portelli, three years ago, had also said that former Enemalta officials had made money from public contracts.

He said that Labour knew of people who spoke to government officials about this abuse.

He asked why all this time had to pass because this matter became public and action was being taken. Why did all this time have to pass?  Furthermore, why was the oil procurement process not changed? The Labour Opposition, he said, used to argue that the Oil Procurement Board should report regularly to Parliament.  

Mr Bartolo said the police should call in Austin Gatt (the minister responsible for Enemalta at the time) for questioning on the oil procurement system he set up in 2004.

Political responsibility, Mr Bartolo said, should be shouldered by prime minister and Dr Gatt.




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