Tribunal warns Malta Enterprise ‘law not to be used to limit transparency, accountability’

Malta Enterprise ordered to provide information to The Shift on payments to Media Today owner Saviour Balzan and his companies

 

The government agency tasked with attracting foreign direct investment has lost its bid to hide the payments it made to government spin doctor Saviour Balzan and his companies.

Through its lawyer, former Labour candidate Chris Cilia, the agency refused to provide information about the payments, arguing that the Malta Enterprise Act prevented it from doing so.

After the Information and Data Protection Commissioner upheld The Shift’s Freedom of Information (FOI) request to provide a list of payments made to Balzan, Media Today, Business 2 Business Ltd, or any other of his companies, Malta Enterprise initiated a two-year-long appeal, insisting that the Commissioner’s decision was wrong.

According to Cilia, Malta Enterprise was legally prohibited from providing this information.

Last week, the Appeals Tribunal, led by Chair Anna Mallia, found that Malta Enterprise was wrong and underscored that the law should not be used to limit transparency and accountability.

In its decision, the Tribunal said the law referred to beneficiaries of aid and grants from Malta Enterprise and not to service providers like Malta Today’s owner.

Chastising the public agency for attempting to interpret the law differently, the Tribunal insisted Malta Enterprise was obliged to be transparent and give an account of how it spent money from the public purse.

The Tribunal ordered the agency headed by Kurt Farrugia, a former spokesperson of disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat, to forward all the information about payments made to Saviour Balzan and his companies since Labour returned to power in 2013.

It is one of 40 appeals the government filed against The Shift’s funder and managing editor, Caroline Muscat, for Freedom of Information requests, which the newsroom has been battling for over two years.

This decision is the latest in a long series of wins by The Shift over the provision of hundreds of thousands paid to Balzan over the past decade.

With only a few pending cases left, The Shift has won all its requests, even though the government tried to block all information. It engaged an army of lawyers to file over 40 separate appeals, including 18 court cases.

So far, The Shift has won all the cases appealed.

The original FOI requests were made in 2021 after The Shift discovered that Balzan was paid more than a million euro through consultancy contracts, advertising and advisory services, survey commissioning, and other business deals with government ministries, agencies and the State broadcaster.

While posing as an independent journalist, Balzan advises ministers on public relations, informs them of how to deal with criticism, helps them prepare statements, and invites them to his programme hosted by the State broadcaster.

                           

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6 Comments
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Mick
Mick
1 month ago

Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together. Kurt Farrugia will be on the hunt to fire some subordinates for sure. Happy days.

Carmelo borg
1 month ago

Salvu SE taqalu il MASKLA

Carmelo
Carmelo
1 month ago

Thanks

George's mangion
George's mangion
1 month ago

Hemm l-irguija tan-nies: jinxtraw bil-flus..

Philip Micallef
Philip Micallef
1 month ago

It is unacceptable for public entities not to divulge the amounts paid to consultants and other suppliers. The Malta Enterprise Act clearly distinguishes between sums paid for grants and other incentives for investment and sums paid to suppliers such as advertisers etc

makjavel
makjavel
1 month ago

So Chris Cilia , who is a lawyer does not know the law and the even worse the Legal Obligations the institution he runs, has.
The Chamber of Lawyers should remove his warrant , on the basis of incompetence and telling lies to official questions.

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