Konrad Mizzi’s hefty price
The fall from grace of the 2013 general election start candidate, Konrad Mizzi has been spectacular to say the least. Labour’s poster boy, found himself at the helm of a very unorthodox ministry – health and energy – two very vast albeit completely different portfolios. With the benefit of hindsight, we can now say that the legacy of his short span at the higher echelons of Maltese politics can be summarised in two words – Vitals and Electrogas. Ever since the Panama Papers scandal broke in 2016, it has been a slippery slide for Mizzi. Stripped off the deputy leadership, he eventually found himself out of Cabinet and ultimately expelled from his own party, though evidence suggest he still has a degree of support within Labour ranks.
Mizzi is once again in the spotlight over his reluctance to testify before the Public Accounts Committee which is probing the controversial power station deal which was brokered under his watch. In all probability, it will be an anti-climax as he might dodge or decline to answer the most pertinenti questions. Such prospect highlights the state of our highest democratic institution, which has been found time and again completely powerless to scrutinise the manner in which taxpayers’ money is being spent, though the manner in which government MPs have refused to turn up the heat against Mizzi does not cover them in glory. However, the repercussions of Mizzi’s legacy go well beyond this hullaballoo.
In the health sector taxpayers are forking tens of millions every year on the controversial hospital privatization agreement signed with Vitals which was subsequently taken over by Steward Health Care. By the end of next year this deal will have gobbled up around €400 million. Even though both Mizzi and former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat have bowed out of the political scene, or so we have been led to believe, Malta has been lumped with this deal and it seems there is no prospect to stop the rot. The fact that government is not even considering paying a €100 million penalty to close this chapter and rescind the deal suggests there is more than meets the eye.
Konrad Mizzi was first and foremost the man who piloted Labour’s flagship proposal – the building of a new gas-fired power plant – which was meant to make energy much more affordable for households and businesses. However, there is ample of evidence to suggest that taxpayers are paying through their nose for this project mired in corruption. First of all, there is evidence that Mizzi’s secret Panama company was set to receive kickbacks in return for awarding the contract to Electrogas. Secondly, it emerged that Enemalta was paying over the top to acquire LNG to fire the plant. It transpired that in 2017 alone the price charged by Socar was around €40 million higher than the equivalent if it had bought directly from oil giant Shell. Thirdly, Konrad Mizzi’s intervention led to taxpayers having to carry an additional burden amounting to a bill in excess of €40 million in excise duty on the fuel bought by Enemalta, after it was decided that the government would ‘absorb’ this huge expense.
These instances alone, mean that Konrad Mizzi’s venture into Maltese politics has come at a huge cost to taxpayers – over €400 million in the hospitals deal alone, €40 million in excise duty on fuel, and €40 million on the acquisition on LNG. Hence a conservative estimate would be in the region of almost €500 million which is around €1,000 for every Maltese citizen. In all probability, he will escape real parliamentary scrutiny. However, it is unconceivable how so far he has seemingly evaded justice and laughed in face of those who have been harping that the institutions are alive and kicking. Meanwhile, the bill is increasing.