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Ministry issued €50,000 direct order to Labour’s One TV

The direct order was issued three days before the end of 2016

“A Labour government ministry gave a direct order to the Labour Party TV station”. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier“A Labour government ministry gave a direct order to the Labour Party TV station”. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Just three days before the end of 2016, the Home Affairs and National Security Ministry issued a €50,000 direct order to Labour’s One TV, an official notice shows.

Though the direct order, approved by the Finance Ministry, was for “various publicity campaigns planned by the ministry for 2016”, it was only issued at the end of the year, on December 27, 2016, according to a notice that appeared on The Malta Government Gazette a few days after the last election.

Questions sent to Foreign Minister Carmelo Abela, who was home affairs minister at the time, about the value and timing of the direct order remained unanswered at the time of writing.

No details were supplied when this newspaper asked for a breakdown of the advertisements aired on One TV and radio and whether other media houses were treated in the same manner.

A spokesman only said that “approval was sought and obtained from the Ministry for Finance in December 2016 to proceed with Ministry for Home Affairs and National Security public service announcement campaigns planned for 2017, to be distributed across a number of media outlets, including Allied Newspapers”.

When it was pointed out that the information on The Malta Government Gazette indicated otherwise, the spokesman said there was nothing further to add.

“A €50,000 budget by just one ministry to just one media house is very high by Maltese standards,” an advertising agency executive remarked.

A €50,000 budget by just one ministry to just one media house is very high by Maltese standards

“Apart from the fact that it’s a Labour government ministry giving a direct order to the Labour Party TV station, the large advertising spend is not normal,” another advertising agent told this newspaper.

Before the last election, the Labour Party had accused the PN of using its commercial arm, Media Link communications, which owns NET TV, to bypass new party financing rules.

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici had said the PN had diverted into its coffers a €70,000 donation by the db Group in the guise of “false advertising invoiced” by NET TV.

The PN rejected the claims insisting that the db Group had paid for adverts and sponsorships on its media, which could not be considered as having been donations. It said it had issued VAT invoices for the adverts and programme sponsorships.

The db Group ‘donations’ issue had emerged after the PN asked the Auditor General to investigate whether the price and conditions negotiated between the government and the group for the sale of the ITS land in Pembroke followed good governance rules.

The NAO investigation is still ongoing.

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