Evarist Bartolo | Sunday, 02 August 2009
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Something is rotten in the state of Malta

(With no apologies to Shakespeare)

I have no doubt that Danish company BWSC and its local representative Joseph Mizzi operated unethically over the last four years to secure the €200 million contract to build a new power station at Delimara. This unethical behaviour undermined the tendering process leading to the decision to award the bid to BWSC.
There is documented proof that Mizzi had very good contacts among Enemalta officials who were keeping him informed well in advance of others about the technical specifications Enemalta was going to require for its new power station. They were also informing Mizzi what other companies were offering and how they were negotiating with Enemalta. BWSC were also using Mizzi to persuade Enemalta to design the tender to its advantage.
After contacting BWSC for the first time in January 2005, Mizzi impressed them with his “contacts”, “third persons” and “intelligence network” within Enemalta. Both before and after the first official meeting between BWSC and the technical team of Enemalta at the end of March 2005, Mizzi organized informal and unofficial meetings between BWSC officials and Enemalta technical people. These meetings were outside the formal tendering process and Mizzi made sure that the meetings were held outside Enemalta premises not to drag any official into trouble.
BWSC very early on realised that Mizzi was a vital player to secure their contract. Added to his contacts within Enemalta he also bragged about having access to people “higher up in the political hierarchy” and people in “higher quarters”. BWSC were so keen on working with Mizzi that they signed an agreement with him as their representative after October 2005 when he resigned from the company he used to work for in Malta. They preferred him because they considered him “normally well before anyone else” to obtain vital information for them.
Both before and during the formal tendering process Mizzi and BWSC were sure that BWSC was going to be the successful bidder. They were right. Last April they signed the contract they felt sure they would get way back in 2005.
Over the last two months in parliament and in several articles in the press I have raised the issue of the unethical way Mizzi and BWSC operated since 2005 to secure the new power station contract. I have been focussing on the specific responsibility of BWSC and Mizzi because I had no proof that this was being done with the direct complicity of Minister Austin Gatt and Enemalta Corporation. In the last few days I have been surprised at how BWSC and Mizzi have remained eloquently silent so far on what I have said, while Minister Gatt and Enemalta Corporation have come forward as excellent alibis for them to try and exonerate Mizzi and BWSC from any wrongdoing and unethical behaviour. Why are they doing that?
Why are Minister Gatt and Enemalta so keen to jump to the defence of Mizzi and BWSC? How do the Minister and Enemalta know that there were no Enemalta officials who were secretly supplying information to Mizzi and BWSC and having informal meetings with them to try and influence the tendering process in their favour? No investigations were carried out and Minister Gatt says he is not going to bother and check the diaries of officials working under him! I think Minister Gatt’s disgraceful reaction shows to what abysmal depths government’s ethical standards have fallen.
From what I know of Denmark, the least corrupt country in the world, BWSC operated in Malta in ways it would regard as completely unacceptable at home. BWSC signed an ‘Advisory and Cooperation Agreement’ with Joseph Mizzi through which it appointed him as its advisor on the new power station project. There is this Code of Conduct clause in the agreement: “Advisor will not make any direct or indirect payments or provide anything of value to any public official or representative thereof or to any employees or agents of the Customer in order to obtain the Enemalta Contract.”
How were Enemalta officials persuaded to supply vital information to Mizzi and BWSC? What were these officials promised? What are they going to get in return? Mizzi has negotiated for himself a 2% commission on this contract. Will he have to share some of this money to those who helped him along, including those “higher up in the political hierarchy” he told BWSC he had to tap?
The Enemalta officials who were very active in Mizzi’s “intelligence network” have broken the Public Contracts Regulations (2005) which say that (b) During the dialogue, contracting authorities shall ensure equality of treatment among all tenderers. In particular, they shall not provide information in a discriminatory manner which may give some tenderers an advantage over others. (c) Contracting authorities may not reveal to the other participants solutions proposed or other confidential information communicated by a candidate participating in the dialogue without the candidate’s agreement.
In its edition of March 2007 OECD Observer discussing the 1999 OECD Anti-Bribery Convention states: “But one difficulty experts continually face is how to improve detection. After all, public procurement deals follow a long and complex process, involving many stages before a project reaches fruition. A bribe may occur at any point along the way, from the initial decision to launch a project right through to managing it after completion. … Much bribery happens under government noses as procurement deals are written and signed off by “officials” operating in the system’s blind spots.”
Once upon a time there was a party calling itself the PN that declared total war on corruption and promised to eradicate corruption once and for all. But that was in another century and in another country. It was then also a different party.

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