The Malta Independent 13 August 2022, Saturday

TMID Editorial: Why is it such a big secret?

Thursday, 4 August 2022, 10:31 Last update: about 9 days ago

The authorities have once again declined to give information about the cost of the Malta Film Awards event.

In a reply to a Freedom of Information request submitted by The Malta Independent, the Malta Film Commission said that it is “not in a position” to identify the exact expense for the event, held with so much fanfare and extravagance last January.

For the past six months, the authorities, including the government, have refused to give specific details. Apart from refused FOI requests – other media houses, like The Malta Independent, asked for this information – parliamentary questions on the matter have also remained unanswered.

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When we asked in February, we were told that the information was still being compiled. So we asked again in June, believing that enough time had passed for this exercise to be completed, but still we were turned down. We were directed to an answer to a PQ that was given by Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo, in which he had given round figures on the whole Malta Film Week activities. But, to us, this was not enough as we sought the specific cost of the Malta Film Awards event. Yet again, we found a brick wall.

We made another attempt in person on Tuesday, asking Minister Clayton Bartolo. He said it was impossible to say.

So it is pertinent to ask – why is it such a big secret? Isn’t this public money? Doesn’t the public have the right to know where its money is being spent?

The government and the authorities responsible apparently do not think that the public should be told. The more they hide behind excuses, and the more they linger in giving an answer, the more the suspicions grow.

Let us remember that Maltese film-makers were irritated about the extravagance, with some boycotting the activities related to the Malta Film Week in protest against the overall cost compared to the annual budget allocated to the local film industry.

Let us also remember that British comedian David Walliams was brought over to host the event in a bid to boost viewership, and we all know that such stars do not come cheap.

Let us also remember that if the overall expenditure for all the events of the Malta Film Week are known, then it should be easy to provide the cost of the one specific event.

The fact that this is not being provided means that somewhere, someone has something to hide.

The government speaks of transparency, and gives the impression that everything is accounted for and can easily be explained.

But when something like this happens, it is clear that there is reluctance on the part of authorities, including the government, to be open.

In its last reply, the commission said that all public procurement regulations were followed in the awarding of contracts for services used for the Malta Film Week.

If this is so, then why is it so difficult to tell us what we want to know?

No, minister, it’s not impossible.

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