A small group of closely-knit event organisers, mostly of dance and rave parties attracting a young crowd, have been mopping-up millions of Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) funds.
In the summer of 2018 alone, when Lionel Gerada (former Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi’s person of trust) was made head of events at the MTA, the group received close to €2 million of taxpayer funds through various companies held by the same individuals.
The MTA’s spending spree is currently under the scrutiny of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
Namely, Gerald Debono (known as Gerry), Trevor Camilleri, Nicholas Spiteri and Edward Zammit Tabona of the Fortina Group, are in focus for receiving sponsorships from the MTA to organise private parties during the peak summer months.
A number of the parties included renowned international DJs and were held at Uno Malta club in Ta’ Qali, in which the Zammit Tabonas also have a significant stake.
An analysis of the MTA’s 2018 sponsorships, Gerada’s first year as Head of events at the Authority, shows that the organisers were allocated more than a third of the MTA’s events budget, which skyrocketed from €2 to €6 million in 12 months.
Over €1 million was allocated to only one party – Summer Daze Malta – held during the 2018 Santa Maria weekend.
The organisers, G&T Limited, who also manage the Uno venue, were given a staggering €620,000 for the two-day party event. The MTA also forked out more than €500,000 in other expenses.
These included €170,000 for security, €30,000 for logistics, €19,000 for medical assistance, €7,000 for cleaning, €22,000 for accommodation, €9,000 for ticketing, €23,000 for signage and €100,000 for licensing.
For all these expenses, public procurement rules were not followed. They included a raft of direct orders by the MTA.
The same organisers, through a number of companies most of which were set up in recent years, were also given funds by the MTA to organise most of the private parties held during the same summer.
They included hundreds of thousands of euro for parties like ‘Lost and Found’, the International Music Festival, Elrow parties at Uno and a number of others, most held at the same private venue.
Spiteri alone, through another company, was given €65,000 by the MTA to organise the Medical Cannabis Forum – one of the ‘new industries’ that Joseph Muscat’s government wanted to attract to the island. It is not clear why the Tourism Authority sponsored such a meeting, unconnected with tourism.
All these parties and events usually involve the same group of suppliers, benefitting from various direct contracts for sound, stage, lights, tents and other services required for mass events. Industry sources told The Shift that a number of these suppliers were involved in providing services to the Labour Party in government’s activities organised during electoral campaigns.
While these individuals got the bulk of taxpayer funds allocated to events, others have also had their fair share.
Among them is NNG promotions, given €350,000 per year from the MTA to hold tenor Joseph Calleja’s popular annual concert.
During the same year, NNG, which includes dentists Nigel Camilleri and Jonastin Zammit and former PBS boss Anton Attard, were also given €25,000 by the MTA for a concert by singer Anastacia.
Two companies known to supply services to the Labour Party for its events, RVC Ltd and Tec Ltd, got another €350,000 for ‘Unite’ with Tomorrowland organised by a private company set up only a year earlier, called Festivals Malta Ltd.
Earlier this month, The Shift revealed a secret deal struck between the MTA and VistaJet, a private charter airline for millionaires – through which the MTA funnelled 4.5 million of taxpayer’s funds for marketing services although it remains unclear what Malta got in return.