Over €2 million was spent on direct orders by the Film Commission within the space of a year, according to details published din the government gazette.

The voluminous list includes a €10,000 direct order for a luxury hotel stay in Valletta, €14,000 for a Forbes article and €6,000 on chauffeur services.

A chunk of the €2 million in payments appears to be linked to the organisation of the 2022 Malta Film Awards.

Several contractors known to be close to the Labour Party benefitted from the commission’s bypassing of standard procurement rules. The Film Commission is run by Johann Grech, a former head of government marketing.

Public procurement regulations only allow an entity to issue a direct order up to a €10,000 threshold. Any direct orders above that amount must be approved by the finance ministry and only in exceptional circumstances.

The owner of Labour’s event organisation company TEC Limited received €114,000 for the “provision of staging” and a further €9,000 for “2 tonne concrete blocks”.

Nexos, a company frequently used by Labour for event lighting, got €151,000 worth of direct orders, including €129,000 for the “supply and service of lighting”.

Luxury trophies

One direct order, amounting to €47,000, was given to a New York company specialising in the design of luxury trophies, one month prior to the film awards.

Activist Arnold Cassola last year demanded a probe into the commission’s spending on the awards, after the €400,000 allocated to the event appeared to have been significantly overshot.

The awards were held in January 2022, just two months before the last general election.

A freedom of information request by Times of Malta for a detailed breakdown of spending on the awards was rejected by the commission.

Maltese filmmakers were also up in arms last year over the commission’s “failure” to launch its annual €600,000 film fund.

The direct orders also offer insight into the cost of building and shipping three dinosaur statues to promote the Jurassic World: Dominion film last summer.

While Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo told parliament that the government spent €36,900 to build the three statues, the direct orders list reveals the total cost of building and shipping the statues to Malta was €66,000.

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