The Justice Ministry, headed by Owen Bonnici, spent more than €650,000 on consultancies last year, according to new information released in Parliament.

The Arts Council, one of the entities falling under the remit of the Justice Minister, was by far the biggest spender among Dr Bonnici’s entities, dishing out hundreds of thousands of euros in consultancy services to various companies and individuals, mostly connected to the Labour Party.

Former PN officer and TV host Lou Bondi, who was immediately put on the government’s payroll soon after Labour’s return to power in 2013, continued to offer his ‘advice’ to Albert Marshal’s council for another year, pocketing over €51,000 in taxpayer money last year.

Read: Despite warning, ministry gave €4.5m direct orders in six months

Other beneficiaries of the Arts Council consultancies were Natius Farrugia, Zurrieq’s Labour mayor, who has been engaged to help the council deal with local councils on cultural activities, and Ikona Artworks, which has been servicing the Labour Party and the Office of the Prime Minister for the past years.

Former PBS CEO Anton Attard was also engaged by Mr Marshall, currently also occupying the post of the deputy chairman of PBS, to assist the council on the organisation of national festivities.

The Arts Council has frequently made headlines in the past years over its spending spree when it comes to direct orders and consultancies.

This was also picked up by the National Audit Office, which harshly criticised the methodology of how the council was spending public funds, particularly by dishing out direct orders without issuing public calls for offers. It had highlighted a number of issues, including the lack of good governance in the running of the Arts Council.

Read: Arts Council: no financial statements, €2.1 million in direct orders

According to the latest information available, during the first half of 2018, the Arts Council issued 65 direct orders worth €1.5 million.

These also included a direct order to Felix Busuttil, now a Labour Party candidate for the upcoming MEP elections.

Following four repetitive parliamentary questions submitted by Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi, Dr Bonnici published a list of consultants engaged by his various entities last year.

Lawyer Andy Ellul, a former police officer with close connections to the Labour Party, was paid over €5,000 for legal services to Fondazzjoni Kreattivita, while former Ambassador George Buttigieg is getting over €17,000 a year for his advice to the Medicines Authority.

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