‘Persons of trust’ go beyond Malta’s borders: Arts Council appoints one in New York

No other government agency has ever been allowed to appoint ‘ad hoc’ representatives abroad, particularly in the cultural field.


The government’s practice of appointing those loyal to the party in government on the state’s payroll through the heavily criticised ‘persons of trust’ system has even spread even beyond Malta’s shores.

The Arts Council, led by 74-year-old chairman Albert Marshall, has engaged a Maltese expat in New York as its representative in the Big Apple despite heavy criticism from the Auditor General on expenditure.

Laura Falzon, a Canadian-born freelance concert flautist of Maltese descent who has been living in New York for a number of years, has been the recipient of repeated direct orders since 2015 to act as the Arts Council representative on a 30-hour part-time contract and paid some €45,000 a year.

In an unprecedented move, Marshall has been asking permission from permanent secretary Johan Galea to renew Falzon’s contract every year, boosting her remuneration every time through a so-called ‘expertise allowance’ that has now reached €13,000 a year.

Laura Falzon.

Asked to justify the need for the Arts Council to have a permanent representative in New York, a spokesman only said that Falzan holds qualifications in music and is engaged to promote Maltese arts across New York and Washington DC.

Questioned about whether the Arts Council has any similar representatives in any other part of the world since this is normally the role of embassies, the spokesman said that Falzon is the only overseas representative of the Council.

Sources at the Arts Council told The Shift that the appointment of Falzon is just another example of how the Council is being led as “some kind of personal fiefdom” with Marshall, a former head of Labour’s TV station, taking decisions with little or no accountability.

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with Falzon representing Malta, but this raises a number of questions on why her? How was she selected? Why New York and not London or any other city? Is the role of the Arts Council?” a source who spoke to The Shift said.

Malta already spends tens of millions each year to keep up its network of overseas representatives through various embassies, ambassadors and consuls. No other government agency has ever been allowed to appoint ‘ad hoc’ representatives abroad, particularly in the cultural field.

Phantom jobs for close friends

During the past years, the Arts Council under Marshall has become synonymous with waste of public funds, mismanagement and serious breaches of good governance.

Despite several warnings, particularly by the National Audit Office, the government, even under Prime Minister Robert Abela, continues to tolerate the abuse since many of the beneficiaries are part and parcel of the governing ruling party.

Luke Dalli + Albert Marshall

Luke Dalli put on the Arts Council payroll with Albert Marshall, who he described as his mentor

Two of those put on the Arts Council’s payroll by Marshall on a full-time basis, are Luke Dalli, the son of former Labour Minister Helena Dalli, and Charlon Gouder – a Labour crony who also acted as Minister Jose’ Herrera’s personal assistant for many years.

While the two employees receive a full time pay funded by taxpayers, they are also full time lawyers rarely seen at the offices of the Arts Council.

Sources told The Shift that “no one really knows when and at what time both Dalli and Gouder report for work at the Council and what they actually do.”

Their law firms also receive direct orders for ‘legal services’ through various government ministries.


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7 months ago

Where have the €8000 million gone?

6 months ago

marshall does well to have a maltese representative in the USA; it’s money well spent. The consequence is that New York now abounds with maltese artists, and soon this will spread further afield. keep up the sh…t; spending our money is so easy. And poor we continue to support and applaud

6 months ago

Malta u New York taghna wkoll, hallas gahan

6 months ago

No wonder why One TV made so much debts & have published their last accounts ten years ago…..if they follow the ‘spendthrift’ philosophy of their former head!

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