Film Commissioner files court case in bid to keep Film Festival costs hidden

Film Commissioner Johann Grech has filed a civil court case in an attempt to prevent information on the expenditure of public funds, requested by the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation through a freedom of information request, from being published.

Grech refuses to disclose how much the Commission spent on comedian David Walliams for his guest appearance and endorsements at the Malta Film Awards in January 2022, despite rulings from both the Information and Data Protection Commissioner and Tribunal ordering him to do so.

The budget for the Malta Film Awards was €400,000, but Malta Film Week cost €1.3 million, according to Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo, with no information released publicly on how the funds were spent.

In a press release on Wednesday, the foundation said Grech “has asked the court to annul a ruling by the Commissioner and to revoke a decision by the Tribunal that upholds the IDPC’s ruling.”

“Rather than acting in the public interest and releasing the information on public expenditure for which he is responsible, the Malta Film Commissioner has now chosen to take his case to court, adding to the burden he has already put on the public purse with his profligate spending,” it said.

In its FOI request from January last year, the foundation asked for invoices received from Walliams or his associates in connection with the event, with the Film Commission subsequently refusing the request, citing “good reason for withholding the requested document”.

Following a rejection of the complaint opposing the Film Commission’s decision, the foundation took the case in front of the IDPC, who ruled in September last year that the Film Commission was to provide a copy of the expenses to the foundation.

The IDPC noted the confidentiality clause in the agreement with Walliams could not be used to prevent disclosure of the amount he was paid and that the Malta Film Commission did not attempt to explain or substantiate its claim that disclosing the requested invoice would prejudice its affairs or those of Walliams.

Following the Data Protection Commissioner’s ruling, the Film Commission appealed the decision before the Information and Data Protection Tribunal, which rejected the appeal and upheld the IDPC’s decision.

Grech is now seeking to annul the Commissioner’s decision in front of the civil court, with the information remaining hidden more than a year after the event in question.

Grech has also rejected The Shift’s FOI requests asking for cost breakdowns of another lavish event by the Film Commission, the Mediterrane Film Festival, held last June and estimated to cost taxpayers at least a million euros according to industry insiders.

The Film Commissioner has recently also come under fire for the Malta Film Commission’s spending about a 40% cashback scheme offered to film productions shooting in Malta. A report by the Times of Malta showed how €47 million was spent on just one production alone, Gladiator II.

The scheme has been widely criticised for sidelining local crews, with previous Freedom of Information requests from The Shift asking for cost breakdowns of the estimated expenditure similarly rejected by the Film Commission.

On Wednesday, the National Audit Office confirmed that it will investigate the Malta Film Commission’s spending as part of the lucrative 40% cashback scheme.

The probe was launched in response to a letter penned last month by opposition MPs Darren Carabott, David Agius, Graham Bencini, and Julie Zahra asking Auditor General Charles Deguara’s office to investigate the spending.

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Paul Pullicino
Paul Pullicino
11 days ago

He’ll finally take it to the European Court of Human Rights for breach of his Fundamental Right to Secretly Screw the Country and the People in it.

Maria Scicluna
Maria Scicluna
11 days ago

Ma ghandekx x’tahbi grech!!

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