Flight and accommodation expenses for Malta’s participation in the Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm amounted to what the country would usually spend on the entire competition, leaked documents show.
Accommodation expenses at the Quality Hotel Globe for the Maltese delegation amounted to €89,844 and flight tickets cost €18,420, the leaked papers show.
The total – for just the flight and hotels – was equivalent to the entire budget allocated to the competition in the past, sources close to Public Broadcasting Services Ltd said.
The flight and accommodation costs were just part of the expenses incurred for this year’s participation, according to the leaked documents.
The chairman of the PBS board of directors, Tonio Portughese, said the amounts mentioned were incorrect but would not give an account of what was spent. CEO Anton Attard said the costs were “well below the sum quoted”.
Repeated requests made to PBS by the Times of Malta for a detailed breakdown of expenses have so far been denied. This newspaper also submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act but this was rejected by a senior legal counsel at the Ministry of Justice, Culture and Local Government, which has political responsibility for PBS.
The minister, Owen Bonnici, has so far also failed to provide a breakdown of expenses to Parliament despite repeated requests by the Opposition through written questions.
The leaked documents seen by the Times of Malta show expenses exceeding €200,000, though it is not the final bill.
The expenses listed in the leaked documents do not include a Eurovision preview party at the Aria Complex, in San Ġwann, travel and hotel expenses for promotional tours for singer Ira Losco and her manager, Howard Keith, and Luke Fisher, a former employee of the European Broadcasting Union recruited by PBS to manage media communications for the contest.
The costs were well below the sum quoted
Mr Fisher’s contract included accommodation at an Msida apartment for €900 a month from January to May as well as utility bills, a mobile phone, a €40 daily allowance plus paid travel.
Additional expenses included travel and hotel expenses for foreign singers and their delegations that were invited to Malta as part of the lobbying system.
Unlisted expenses include the lighting and projection system used in Stockholm and the hologram cape designed by Alex Zabotto, which was promoted heavily but never used.
Sources who approached this newspaper spoke of a “limitless” budget in a bid to boost Ms Losco’s chances of winning in Stockholm. She eventually placed 11th.
Conservative estimates indicate the expenditure could be at least double what Malta usually spends on the contest. Such expenditure was “unprecedented”, the sources said. The costs are over and above those related to the organisation of the festival in Malta.
Mr Attard, who led the organisation of Malta’s entry, insisted the expenses incurred were covered by advertising and sponsorships, adding that PBS had made an “overall profit”.
This newspaper insisted the administration of funds by a State-owned entity, whatever the source of the funds, was in the public interest. However, both the chairman and the CEO remained adamant a detailed account would not be made available.
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