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Anna Mallia | Wednesday, 20 January 2010 Issue. 147

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Chaos at water and electricity corporations

Can you understand what is going on at Enemalta and the Water Services Corporations? How is it possible that these two corporations, with so many people working for them and with such hefty managerial salaries, were unable to manage debt-collecting and have solved the problem by registering a limited liability company to do a job which its own employees are already paid to do?

Correct me if I am wrong, but if the management of these two corporations was unable to handle debt collection, which is the simplest of all responsibilities, how can we trust it to fulfil the rest of its obligations?
In this day and age, when we are being made to bear the brunt of the irresponsibility of others, these corporations decided to register a limited liability company called ‘Automated Revenue Management Services Limited’ (ARMS). The shareholders are both Enemalta and WSC, and the three directors are Karl Camilleri, Pierre Carabott and Marco Muscat.

How these people are qualified for the job, we do not know... and since it is public money that has been invested in this ARMS, we expect the Minister concerned to present before the Table of the House a copy of the articles and memorandum of this company and explain how these three people were selected as directors; why they are better for the job than employees of Enemalta and WSC; the remuneration that they will receive, and; what will happen to the employees who were until some time ago doing the same job.

We do not know what is going to become of the employees who until some time ago were responsible for debt collection, as well as their in-house lawyers, now that they have apparently had their job axed by this new company. If anyone needed a certificate of the extent to which the government has lost faith in Enemalta and WSC workers, ARMS is a good example. Instead of tackling the problem and giving incentives for existing employees to work, the government prefers to give these incentives to ARMS: a company whose connection with the two corporations is only the money invested.

It took ARMS to come up with a detailed breakdown of our utility bills, when this breakdown had been ordered by the Malta Resources Authority so that the consumer is given a satisfactory explanation of what he is paying for.

However, it seems that this company is also given the responsibility for the provision of audit services (thank God for that, because the corporations have been without their audit reports for many years now), and for the installation services for smart electricity meters and water probes. Again, the government felt that it could not trust the employees of these two corporations with these tasks and solved the problem by setting up this new company.

Nothing comes for free and we are kept in the dark as to how the directors and the secretary of the company are going to be paid; how much the employees’ salaries will be; how many of them this company will engage; and whether there will be secondment of any employees of Enemalta or WSC to this new company.
Since it is public money, we have a right to this information.

What we were told so far is that if we do not pay the bill within the 45-day period, 6% interest will be charged as from the first 15 days. We do not know if the regulations governing the two corporations will also be extended to ARMS, and nor do we know if ARMS is empowered to suspend the electricity and water supply.

Another mystery is whether ARMS will deal with the issue of illegal boreholes, which are blessed by the government in allowing the importation of water bowsers, without requiring the importer to state the borehole from which the bowser is extracting. All we know is that ARMS is there to collect money, to charge interest for non-payment, and that it is the contractor for the smart meter.

The extension of the power station also leaves the public perplexed, as it cannot understand how the European Investment Bank granted Enemalta a €150 million loan in 2008 to upgrade the country’s power supply system and make it more environmentally-friendly, on condition that:
First, Enemalta modernises the energy sector to help it meet the growing demand, notably from businesses and industry, in order to boost the Maltese economy as a whole and helping to improve its economic and social cohesion with the EU;
Second, it supports investment in new equipment to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in accordance with the EU’s environmental policies tackling global warming (as reported on 24 September 2008 in the local newspapers).

How is this money is being utilised according to these two objectives? This is something for the European Investment Bank and opposition ought to look into, because so far we have not seen any environmental improvement in Enemalta’s work; on the contrary, we were told that it awarded the tender for the extension of the power station to the most polluting offer. Nor have we been informed as to whether this money has been sent to Enemalta in the first place.

Another thing I can’t understand is how the government has promised to eliminate fuel oil completely in power stations and replace it with gas by 2014 or 2015 (parliamentary debate 15/1/2009), when we know that now the government is ruling out the gas pipeline altogether. It was also stated in the same parliamentary debate that one of the targets of the government was to close down the Marsa power station by 2015.

We all know that 2014 is just a stone’s throw away, and that neither one promise nor the other will be kept by that date. And naturally, it will be the taxpayer who will have to pay the fines that Brussels will be charging us for failing to abide by our promise to close the power station by 2015.

What a shame that the people who are handsomely paid to manage both Enemalta and Water Services Corporation are not brought to book for failing to do their job properly, but are instead rewarded by having part of their workload shifted on to others: this time a private limited liability company, and by continuing in the same managerial positions!

Can we know what is going on in Enemalta and WSC please?



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