An investigation into alleged irregularities by the public broadcaster and the Malta Tourism Authority over thousands of euros spent to manipulate betting odds in favor of the Maltese entrant to the European Song Contest last year has remained inconclusive, contradicting public statements by Minister Carmelo Abela that “No irregularity was found”.
A summary of the report, acquired by The Shift via a freedom of information request, also shows that the main allegation the report was supposed to address – the use of public funds at betting sites – did not not investigated by RSM, and instead focused on the nearly €600,000 spent by the two state bodies on the competition.
The report, given to auditing firm RSM through a direct commission – the same firm that audits the accounts of the ruling Labor Party – concluded that while the two organizations appear to have stayed within their self-determined budgets, most purchases were made directly. orders and insisted that the information in their report could not be independently verified.
Noting that their assignment was “not an audit”, RSM underlined with a disclaimer that “it is possible that not all relevant information and documents have been made available to us”, taking no responsibility for to the conclusions of the report.
The Prime Minister’s Office declined to release the full copy of the report, citing commercial sensitivity, and only released the executive summary of the report.
Extravagance and Revised Budgets
According to the RSM report, PBS originally budgeted some €350,000 for singer Destiny’s participation in the Rotterdam competition.
However, for some unspecified reason, the management of PBS, led by politically appointed chairman Mark Sammut, later decided to increase the budget to €500,000.
An additional €155,000 was secured from the MTA budget, which the report said was still due to PBS two months after the event was held.
Although the RSM report concluded that both organizations were on budget (since they had been revised upwards in the process), no investigation was made into whether the funds had been used for betting – PBS and the MTA did not provide any invoices or other financial data on this matter. publish.
On the other hand, a breakdown of the figures on which the two organizations have spent taxpayers’ money shows that tens of thousands of euros have been spent on social media marketing and unidentified influencers to build public support. to the song of Malta.
On social media platforms alone, PBS and the MTA spent a whopping €157,000.
Several so-called anonymous influencers also shared some €32,000 in additional public funds to promote Malta’s entry.
Travel costs also deviated significantly from the original budget, with many PBS and MTA employees spending weeks in hotels in Rotterdam in preparation for the competition.
While less than €6,000 was listed as having been spent on travel – perhaps an understatement given the number of people traveling to the Netherlands – hotel accommodation costs reached €80,000.
Staging, artistic and unspecified “other talent” and the production of a music video cost taxpayers an additional €160,000.
Doubtful supplies and missing invoices
The report shows that PBS alone spent a total of €423,000 on the contest, while the MTA spent an additional €137,000, mostly on “marketing”, bringing the total to more than €560,000.
Although the documents provided to RSM were not verified, some of the costs involved were not even covered by an invoice.
RSM pointed out that no invoices were provided by PBS for 16 of the recorded expense items, totaling nearly €40,000. It is unclear whether these missing bills were in any way related to the alleged bet.
For its part, the MTA was still awaiting the arrival of certain invoices at the time the RSM “investigation” was concluded.
RSM noted that it “cannot conclude on the completeness of the information” included in the report and that “any documentation that comes to our attention after the date of this report that affects funding, will require our conclusions to be adjusted and qualified. Consequently. .”