MTA hands out 200 event sponsorships during pandemic, refuses to name amounts or recipients

Information obtained through a Freedom of Information request filed by The Shift reveals the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) sponsored 202 events since 2019, with the Authority declining to reveal who these sponsorships were awarded to as well as what amounts were spent.

According to the MTA response, 182 sponsorships were paid out in 2019 despite the COVID pandemic sending people into lockdown. Nine sponsorships were given in 2020 and 11 in 2021. The MTA refused to provide further information who the sponsorships were awarded to and how much they cost taxpayers, citing “commercial confidentiality and sensitivity”.

The same request for information also detailed questions about the remuneration awarded to the MTA’s 12 board members, including chairman Gavin Gulia. The MTA stated that in 2019, the board members were raking in €89,300, a salary which was bumped up to €94,297 by 2020.

The Shift’s questions were sent by way of following up on the portal’s long-term investigation into preferential treatment for event organisers known to be close to MTA head of events Lionel Gerada, who was given a position of trust by disgraced former tourism minister Konrad Mizzi.

On 4 November, The Shift published an article in which the chairman of the public accounts committee (PAC) lamented how its investigations into Gerada’s links with 356 Entertainment Group and other linked companies yielded no further investigation from the police force or any other relevant authorities.

The PAC had spent months questioning witnesses, including Gulia, Gerada, and then-CEO of the MTA Leslie Vella. Two million euros were reportedly awarded to companies linked with 356 Entertainment Group in the summer of 2018 alone.

Yet the individuals linked with 356 Entertainment Group continue to benefit from their close links with the government. At least six, large-scale events held in 2021 and 2022 were organised by the group and sponsored through taxpayer funds.

Besides awarding millions of euros to companies linked with 356 Entertainment Group, which is owned by Gerald Debono, Trevor Camilleri, Nicholas Spiteri and Edward Zammit Tabona, Gerada was also seen to operate in a way which made fair competition impossible for operators not connected to Gerada.

This was exemplified by the ‘fast-tracking’ system which was exposed in the PAC hearing featuring the former CEO of the MTA. Although Vella had denied that any preferential treatment was given, the PAC had caught on to the fact that certain, unnamed applicants had ‘spoke to Lionel’ written on top of their application.

Questions were sent to the police on whether any further investigation into the MTA’s sponsorships has been carried out. A spokesperson for the corps declined to share details on the subject, citing subsidiary legislation related to personal data as well as Article 87 of the Police Act.

Article 87 of the Police Act states that no police officer can provide details to the press about individuals who were either arrested on reasonable suspicion or about to be charged before the courts after investigation, making it unclear if and when the police is going to do so.

Article 38 of subsidiary legislation known as the Data Protection Regulations states that police officers can only communicate information relating to an individual’s private data only if it is absolutely necessary for the performance of a task of an authority, the protection of vital interests of that individual, the establishment of legal claims or the prevention of some form of “serious and imminent” danger.

                           
                               
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D. Borg
D. Borg
8 months ago

The Opposition, so “blessed” with lawyers, should start filing Court proceedings against the Police, respective Ministers, Perm Sec Min of Finance & Govt. Internal Auditor for lack of timely action to recoup these funds and fine the corrupt public “servants” who orchestrated, aided and/or approved such abuse of taxpayer funds / public assets.

carlo
carlo
8 months ago
Reply to  D. Borg

That will be the day. It has to be the people who elect them that should demand results, unfortunately corruption and greed have ruined this nation. Almost all ministers, ex-ministers, people of trust, friends of friends are implicated in some sort of corruption.
This is what the most corrupt prime minister Malta ever had will be remembered for.

Marc Sant
Marc Sant
8 months ago

So public servant with most responsibility, the prime minister, gets paid EUR 60,000 per year and yet board members of the MTA get paid approx. EUR 90,000. How does that make sense?

carlo
carlo
8 months ago
Reply to  Marc Sant

Yes but the hard working honest worker gets one euro seventy five cents, not enough for a coffee. But gahan is happy.

carlo
carlo
8 months ago

Il-poplu HAND DRITT LI JKUN JAF X’INHU JSIR BI FLUSU, pero’ ghandna poplu (jew nofsu) gaham li ma jinterassah minn xejn. Kull poplu jkollu gvern li jixraqlu – il-hazinhu li mal-hazin qighed jehel it-tajjeb. SHAME on this super corrupt government.

joe tedesco
joe tedesco
8 months ago

WHAT A DISGRACEFUL MTA! GOD FORBID
ANOTHER 5 YEARS UNDER A PL GREATLY
ARROGANT GOVERNMENT.

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