MEA report – Final chapter in the saga

CHIEF MINISTER: Allan Bell says the report will not simply be left on the shelf. PHOTO: John Maddrell JM121110 (11).

CHIEF MINISTER: Allan Bell says the report will not simply be left on the shelf. PHOTO: John Maddrell JM121110 (11).

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THE long-awaited select committee report on the MEA loans scandal was finally laid before Tynwald and accepted by a majority vote.

Castletown MHK Richard Ronan, who described the affair as ‘an absolute scandal for the Isle of Man’, was one of only two other members to vote against the motion.

‘Who’s gone to gaol? No one. Who is paying the millions of pounds? The public. We are left with the prospect of sky high energy fees and paying for this for decades to come.’

Introducing the report to members, committee chairman Steve Rodan said it had been five years in the making and whilst they had been thorough there was sufficient material to occupy a further five years’ consideration had Tynwald not called for the report to be completed.

The third report was the last of a trilogy which started when the committee was set up in July 2005, he said, and dealt with how and why expenditure on the power station rose to such an extent additional loans were taken out.

Original construction costs for the power station were to be £80m and while the final cost was hard to calculate precisely, he said independent experts Power Pro estimated it was almost £129m. The same experts also assessed what an equivalent facility to the new power station should have cost and arrived at a figure of £106m, he said.

Treasury Minister Eddie Teare said he was pleased to endorse the report and said lessons had been learnt and measures already put in place.

Sounding a positive note, Dudley Butt MLC pointed out the island now has a state of the art power station with a large amount of reserve capacity for the future.

‘It was supposed to cost £80m and it actually cost £129m - but what it could have been built for 12 years ago is irrelevant now,’ he said.

‘The then Trade and Industry Minister was persuaded that the lights were going to go out and people panicked but in fact the undersea cable had 30 per cent more capacity left at that time.

‘So within six weeks of that, the motion was put before Tynwald to spend £185m. There was no realistic business plan. Tynwald voted for it. Projected costs with interest payments did not even stack up in 2001.’

Chief Minister Allan Bell described the report as ‘a horror story in many respects’ but gave members an assurance the recommendations contained in it would be looked at and acted upon.

‘This will not just be left on the shelf. I want to make sure major lessons are learned for the future.’

Never short of an aphorism, MLC Eddie Lowey said his approach to the affair was ‘look back but don’t stare’.

‘It is important to realise the climate in which this operated,’ he said.

‘This man (Mr Proffitt) was regarded as the Messiah of the media. No-where has anybody from the old regime ever issued a word of regret but there will be generations of Manx families paying for their mistakes.’

The motion was passed with a majority of 28. The two dissenting votes were Peter Karran (Onchan, LibVan)and Mr Ronan.

Among the various recommendations accepted in the motion was a call for tighter rules for statutory boards to control expenses claims and spending on corporate credit cards.

It was also recommended for the Financial Services Commission to examine the report’s conclusions and the evidence, and consider if they should investigate any of those people named in the report.

Recommendations were also accepted to achieve greater transparency by requiring formal approval of accounts at least every three months.

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