Government spent €1 million a month on cultural activities during covid shutdown

The government squandered at least 1 million a month in direct orders through various cultural agencies during the covid pandemic, even though all cultural activities were shut down last year.

While hundreds of artists, musicians and actors were struggling to make ends meet as a result of the complete closure of public activities, a few were more privileged, and were able to continue working almost as normal. 

Their sponsor was the Culture Ministry – which used taxpayers’ funds to keep the privileged few going. The beneficiaries’ common denominator appears to have been their unconditional support for the governing Labour Party. Click here to see a sample of just some of the direct orders issued by the Culture Ministry in 2021.

Using the familiar ‘artistic value’ justification to run roughshod over public procurement rules, the 78-year-old chairman of the Arts Council, Albert Marshall, continued to dole out hundreds of direct orders, despite several warnings to restrain this ‘abuse’ by the National Audit Office.

Among the beneficiaries during the first six months of 2021 were Paul Abela and Joe Brown – two composers, very close to Labour, who shared 116,000 and Frederick Testa (30,000) – Labour billboard actor – for serving as a ‘liaison artistic officer’.

Marshall’s now notorious extravagance with taxpayer funds was last year surpassed by his colleague and One TV colleague, Norman Hamilton – also in his late seventies – who, as the government’s appointee to the chair of Festivals Malta, also used public ,money to keep a large number of Labour helpers and employees in funds.

While Festivals Malta’s activities were cancelled because of the pandemic, one of the PR agencies who services Labour, Pure Concepts, was given 9,000 to boost the agency’s activities while Liquorish Productions, owned by former PN tv presenter Andrea Cassar, now appearing on Labour’s tv, was given 10,000 for unknown ‘tv production – planning and management’.

Hamilton, who spent five years as Malta’s High Commissioner to the UK  in London before his latest government appointment, also issued tens of thousands of euros in handouts to Sandro Kitcher, a Labour tv operative and canvasser of former Culture Minister  Jose’ Hererra; singer Willie Mangion, who has been on the government’s payroll since 2013 after he helped promote Labour; Elton Zarb – son of former GWU boss, Tony Zarb; Labour candidate Felix Busuttil; former Labour tv producer Engelbert Grech; and Labour mass events suppliers Tec Ltd, RVC and Besteam, among many others.

Other government cultural entities falling under the Culture Ministry, which have mushroomed over the last few years while multiplying the number of employees on the government’s payroll, dished out tens of other direct orders during the same period.

In one particular and curious case, Alfaran Trailers, a company with strong connections to Hamrun, was given a staggering 1.2 million direct order to lease warehouses to Heritage Malta.

It is not yet known why the government entity, now under the chairmanship of former GWU official Mario Cutajar, needed to hire warehousing via a direct order.

At the time, Heritage Malta fell under the political wing of Jose Herrera, who represented Hamrun as part of his constituency. He failed to regain his seat in the last elections and was ousted by a young, relatively unknown Labour novice politician, Keith Azzopardi Tanti.



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Francis Said
Francis Said
2 years ago

The rape of taxpayers’ funds continued unabated during Covid for the close associates of the PL.
Well done Joseph, well done Bobby and well done Profs. Edward Scicluna. Well done to all those who contributed to splashing out these funds.

Franco Galea
Franco Galea
2 years ago

While hundreds of artists, musicians and actors were struggling to make ends meet…

U regaw ivvutaw lejber! Ighna!

2 years ago

Looks like those years spent in London haven’t been kind to Norman.

Michael Borg
2 years ago
Reply to  id-dudinu123

We were at Montessori school together……….I am 83, so he must be about the same age. But I look better than him…………hehe

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