Electrogas auditors PwC have struck a cautious tone in response to a “legal review” which did not substantiate corruption allegations swirling around the power station consortium, corporate filings show.
The consortium’s latest financial filings state that international law firm White & Case was given access to documents, data and company employees as well as its current shareholders as part of the review process.
Electrogas said in a statement last September that the review had found no signs of corruption at any stage of the power project.
However, while PwC offers a clean audit opinion on the consortium’s 2018 accounts, it highlights how “material uncertainty” remains following the White & Case review.
Acknowledging the review’s conclusions, PwC emphasised in its auditor’s report how White & Case identified sources of information that the law firm did not have access to during the review process, as well as the fact that public investigations are still ongoing.
Only “limited responses”, via email, were received from Gasol, the original lead shareholders behind the power station project, as part of the review.
Gasol crashed out of the project in 2015, leading Tumas Group, Gasan Group and CP Holdings under the GEM umbrella, together with Socar and Siemens, to increase their stakes in the venture.
According to an Electrogas directors’ report attached to the financial statements, the review by White & Case found that “allegations of potential corruption involving Electrogas were not substantiated”, and no adverse findings were noted about Electrogas or its current directors.
Sources of information that the law firm did not have access to during the review process
Former Electrogas director Yorgen Fenech, who is suspected of complicity in Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, used to be the lead director on the project.
The review process was kicked off after his arrest in connection to the murder in November 2019.
The directors’ report about the findings euphemistically states that “GEM’s former director”, a reference to Fenech, was “not available to participate” in the internal review.
Fenech is currently in custody as the compilation of evidence about the murder charges continues.
The former Electrogas director had claimed soon after his arrest that he could offer up information about corruption in connection with the power station deal.
Times of Malta and Reuters outed Fenech as the owner of 17 Black in 2018.
A leaked e-mail from Nexia BT indicated that Fenech’s good friend, Keith Schembri, the chief of staff to former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, as well as former Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi, were going to receive up to €2 million in a single year from 17 Black.
Electrogas has denied having any link with 17 Black.
According to the directors’ report, the review identified no evidence that Electrogas benefitted from preferential treatment in the original tender process.
The review found that the transaction documents resulting from the tender award were consistent with such documents being negotiated at arm’s length and the terms are “broadly in line with market standard risk allocation”, the directors’ report stated.
A 500-page audit by the National Audit Office of the tendering process and contracts signed between the government and Electrogas had found differences in the way competing bids were treated by the Enemalta selection committee.
Nexia BT’s managing partner Brian Tonna, whose firm helped set up the Panama companies for Schembri and Mizzi, sat on one of the key selection committees.
Schembri and Mizzi have both been hauled in for police questioning over their communication with Fenech, though no further police action has yet followed.
Electrogas acknowledged that public investigations remain ongoing and further “allegations/information may be made or become available”.
The director’s report said Electrogas would continue to monitor the situation and act accordingly.
White & Case made a number of recommendations to Electrogas to continue strengthening its governance processes, which the company’s board says it has accepted.
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