Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech has pledged to refund €50 million to consumers who have been overcharged for their water and electricity consumption, insisting that political responsibility needs to be shouldered by those who knew about the problem but did nothing.
A draft NAO report was leaked to the Times of Malta, which this morning reported that the NAO concluded that consumers could have paid “extra charges” amounting to €6.5 million.
An investigation had been requested back in 2019 after it emerged that ARMS – the company that manages utility bills on behalf of Enemalta and the Water Services Corporation – was calculating electricity bills in a manner that led to some people being overcharged.
Grech said that a government led by him would see to it that the money is paid back in full. A spokesperson for the PN confirmed that the €50 million figure had been calculated on the basis of an estimated €5.5 million overcharged over an nine-year period.
“When it wasn’t known that there was this anomaly one could accept that there was a genuine mistake,” Grech said when asked what he expected of the government now that it appeared to have been confirmed that customers were overcharged.
He said that after it became known that there was an anomaly, and the government had pledged to review the matter, the authorities could no longer be afforded the benefit of doubt.
“It was clear that this theft was taking place, so everyone who, since then, has known about it but failed to take decisive action should shoulder political responsibility,” the PN leader said.
He stressed that such “blatant theft” was unacceptable, and pledged that a Nationalist government would refund all households that had overpaid.
Asked how he was proposing that this happens, given that it was revealed this week that Enemalta had made a €30 million loss in 2020, Grech said that the government had a moral duty to pay people back and would need to find a way of doing it.
On Enemalta’s loss for 2020, Grech said that it was clear that the reason for this was the contract signed with Electrogas, the company that operates Malta’s LNG-fueled power station.
Grech said that the fact that the government had entered into an agreement for it to buy all of the energy produced by the company meant that Enemalta was not at liberty to choose the cheapest source of energy for its electricity generation.
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