• Tue. Nov 29th, 2022

NAO Criticizes Film Commission’s ‘Extravagant’ Spending

Malta Film Commission

Tista’ taqra bil-

The National Audit Office has blamed film commissioner Johann Grech for wasteful spending which has left the Malta Film Commission with a negative working capital of over €1 million by 2020.

In a report on the public accounts for 2020, the Auditor General observed that a lack of effective controls at the committee level led to a concentration of authority with Grech and no independent oversight, allowing Grech not to heed budgetary controls and engage in “extravagance in the use of public funds.”

The Malta Film Commission derives a substantial part of its revenue from the Malta Film Studios water reservoirs in Kalkara, although there are other sources of revenue. However, the commission is also subsidized by the government, whose direct financial allocation has increased considerably in recent years: from €430,000 in 2018 to €1.3 million in 2020.

The increase in spending seemed to seek to fill a substantial deficit that the MFC had: more than €535,000 in 2018. But while the €900,000 budget allocation increase reduced the net deficit, it did not succeed. to eliminate it: a net deficit of €50,527 was declared last year.

These financial allocations exclude funding allocated to the Malta Film Fund which is available to local film producers, film industry incentives used to attract foreign productions and funds spent to upgrade facilities in Kalkara.

Travel budget exceeded “by far”

MFC’s travel budget was “far” exceeded in 2018 and 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic put a damper on travel last year. In defense, the MFC insisted it could not predict how much it would spend on travel over the course of a year.

Regardless, however, the NAO recommended good record keeping, including written justification for any unfavorable variances in expenditure, and stressed that such expenditure was not subject to independent review.

Although many trips saw three or four agents travel together, no permission was provided, and while only one accompanying member was entitled to travel business class with the film commissioner, a sample visit showed that the whole group traveled business class to Berlin and back. .

The NAO has recommended that any film commissioner travel should be approved by the permanent secretary of the responsible ministry – currently the Ministry of Tourism – while all other travel should be approved by the commissioner.

But the department rejected that recommendation, insisting that any travel should instead be approved by the chairman of the council – rather than his senior official.

The commission also justified what the NAO described as extravagant travel expenses, including for meals, with the lack of documentation making it impossible to determine whether it was hospitality provided to third parties or just government officials. itinerant film commission taking advantage.

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