Tony Sultana, the principal permanent secretary who holds a second position as the chairman of MITA – the government’s IT agency – is using the agency’s public funds to buy positive coverage in Malta’s main newspapers and to organise PR events.
According to a new list of direct orders issued by MITA, in the second months of last year, Sultana approved some €2.5 million in direct orders, which included articles in Saviour Balzan’s Malta Today and an event with Allied Newspaper’s Times of Malta.
Both newspapers have recently joined forces in the Association of Media Owners, together with the media arms of the Labour and Nationalist parties, to lobby the government for more public funds and subsidies.
In a direct order issued in August, Balzan was paid €6,000 through the Malta Today newspaper to publish the articles, although there is no information on how many articles were published and who wrote them.
Balzan receives hundreds of thousands of euros yearly from the government through his various private business companies offering consultancies to ministers while he claims to run an independent media outlet.
On their part, the once financially strong institution, Times of Malta, organised an event on behalf of the government agency.
Paid through direct order, approved two months after the event had already taken place in a violation of procurement rules, Times of Malta received €5,500 for a business breakfast on AI & Cyber Security.
The event was also paid separately by another government agency, Malta Digital Innovation Authority (MDIA), through another direct order, but the value of this is not known.
Times of Malta, whose former and current managing directors face criminal charges over sleaze and corruption, also relies on government advertising to remain afloat.
Direct orders were issued for unspecified advertising services to StreetMedia Ltd (€13,000), Capital Communications Ltd (€8,000), VSquared Media & Entertainment (€5,500) and Gartner International Ltd (€123,000).
Suppliers of the Labour Party’s electoral campaign, Ikona Artworks and Nocemukata Co Ltd received €22,000 to design and print MITA strategy publications.
Mad About Video Ltd – an events company, was paid €205,000 to organise another event for MITA called Cyber Root 2023, while Corinthia’s Bay Point Hotel Ltd got €24,000 for a Christmas lunch.
Another Corinthia company – the Malta Fairs and Conventions Centre in Ta Qali – was paid another €8,000 direct order for a Christmas event and another €5,000 for hosting the MITA Awards.
During the last general elections, the head of the civil service, Tony Sultana, served as Labour’s IT delegate.