The Malta Tourism Authority’s creditors will be paid in full, Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo said on Thursday as he said he had no problem with the authority blowing past its budget. 

He was replying to questions by Times of Malta about the MTA’s €20 million overspend, amid reports that additional funds have not been made available for the authority to pay off its debts. 

“All of MTA’s creditors are being paid,” Bartolo said. “As they should, that’s what's going to happen.” 

He added that the MTA has put forward the necessary requests with the Finance Ministry and justified the inflated spend as “an investment”. 

“There have always been additional subventions, this is not something new,” he continued. 

“This spend, which is really an investment, is necessary because as we can see, tourism is our most important economic niche.” 

Video: Jonathan Borg

Minister has 'no problem' with massive overspend

In June Times of Malta reported how the MTA is projecting to overshoot its €108 million budget by €21 million without having sought prior approval. 

Government sources said that part of that spending is understood to have contributed to paying salaries for airport staff needed to carry out COVID-19 checks.

However, insiders have suggested that this would not have run up a bill into the tens of millions of euros. They said that the MTA appears to have splurged on events, luxuries and sponsorships. 

“As we saw during the pandemic, the minute tourism shuttered, practically everyone else had to close,” Bartolo said. 

“With tourism, everyone gets a slice of the pie and so the MTA is wisely investing to make sure that the recovery of our economy’s largest pillar is sustainable and can persevere through the difficult times the world is experiencing at the moment.”

Asked whether he thought the MTA’s budget had ballooned excessively, Bartolo said that the results of the authority’s work spoke for themselves. 

“No not at all,” he said. 

“I think the MTA has done very good work, we can see it from the number of tourists arriving, the events we’re hosting, the marketing we’re putting up, its leaving a positive impact on our country. 

This is not the first time the MTA has faced accusations of mismanagement and overspending. 

In January its former head of events Lionel Gerada was effectively demoted after Times of Malta exposed how he booked expensive hotel rooms using taxpayer money, staying at luxury Valletta hotels during periods when the MTA was organising events in the vicinity. 

A probe was also launched after the MTA spent some €350,000 on promoting Malta’s Eurovision entry last year. 

The minister also came under fire for spending on the Malta Film Awards, which saw local film producers boycott the event in protest of its budget exceeding the budget allocated for the country’s film fund. 

Bartolo eventually revealed that the spend on the Malta Film Week had run up to €1.3 million, but has so far failed to provide a breakdown of that spending or a specific cost for the Malta Film Awards gala night. 

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