Tourism minister hides details of film commissioner’s spending spree

Grech spent a year’s budget in a single week

 

The Malta Film Commission is refusing to give taxpayers an explanation of how it spent €1.3 million in a single week to organise the Malta Film Week, and has turned down a Freedom of Information request from The Shift for a copy of all related invoices and payments.

In a clear attempt to bypass the obligations of the Freedom of Information Act, Johann Grech, the flamboyant and controversial film commissioner, ignored the specific request lodged by The Shift. He instead replied by simply copying-and-pasting an answer to a parliamentary question given last June by his Minister Clayton Bartolo.

In his reply to The Shift’s efforts to make the publicly-funded Film Commission accountable and transparent on how it spends taxpayers’ funds, Grech repeated that over €1,3 million had been spent on Film Week, which included the much-hyped and costly film awards ceremony.

Shying away from any details, Grech said that an astounding €708,000 was spent on ‘logistics’, €478,000 on a term he called ‘creative’, without giving any details, €69,000 on marketing and €81,000 on travel.

Both Grech and his minister have so far refused to give details as to which companies and individuals benefitted from this extraordinary splash of public funds, for what services the funds were used, whether they were paid by direct order and much more information being requested of them.

The Shift has already filed a complaint, according to the law, asking for a revision of the decision to withhold the requested information.

Organised last January, just a few weeks before the announcement of a general election, the Malta Film Week cost taxpayers almost as much as the Malta Film Commission’s entire yearly budget.

According to the 2022 budget estimates approved by parliament, recurrent expenditure dedicated to the Film Commission amounted to a total of €1.5 million over 12 months.

A special line item of €400,000 was inserted by Finance Minister Caruana for the holding of the Malta Film Awards.

However, this was somehow ‘expanded’ by Johann Grech, with the agreement of Permanent Secretary Ronald Mizzi, into a whole week of activities, costing taxpayers more than three times the original budget projected by the Finance Ministry.

The Shift is reliably informed that most of Malta Film Week’s suppliers, who were paid extraordinary amounts, were the same people who, just a few weeks later, were organising the Labour Party’s electoral campaign for ‘free’ or at ‘below market’ prices.

Johann Grech, who together with his former wife, acted as government-paid aides to disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat and his wife Michelle, was responsible for the OPM’s marketing until 2017 when he was given the post of film commissioner.

Embarking on a spending spree, Grech, accompanied by his private secretary, spent at least €600,000 in two years globetrotting the world and attending various events, all the while opting for expensive accommodation with taxpayers footing the bill.

The finance minister also approved an additional €3 million for Grech to upgrade the Malta Film Facilities at Rinella.

The government provides incentives for the international film industry to lure them to film in Malta. This is done through several measures including tax refunds and direct incentives, leading to calls for his resignation.

This year the government dedicated a €9 million budget for film industry incentives and the film commissioner normally has a big say in who gets a slice, or more, of the funds.

                           
                               
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Out of Curiosity
Out of Curiosity
1 day ago

This empty vessel of a Minister, who is so fond of himself and his bossy way of how to appear in the public, is a true reflection of the lowest levels of today’s political class. He is so useless, pompous, and arrogant, as the Italian saying goes, ‘tanto fumo poco arrosto’.

makjavel
makjavel
23 hours ago

Bouncing off cash into friendly pockets. No tracking by the Minister of Finance . In this country these people are getting away with murder , financially speaking, at least.

Albert Mamo
Albert Mamo
1 hour ago

MONEY NO PROBLEM FOR THIS FASCIST GOVERNMENT, RUN BY IDIOTS FOR THE IDIOTS THAT SUPPORT THEM, WHILE OUR NATIONAL DEBT IS GOING THROUGH THE ROOF!!!☹👎👎

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