Tourism authority employees repeatedly stayed in expensive Valletta hotels at the expense of taxpayers during entertainment events organized earlier this year.
The Malta Tourism Authority has confirmed that its staff have stayed in two hotels in the city during two separate events organized last summer.
The events were a showing by the BBC Orchestra for concerts in September and another by famous DJ Pete Tong the following week.
MTA staff booked two rooms at the Gomerino, a boutique facility on St Paul’s Street in Valletta, and two more rooms at 66, St Paul’s, a hotel and spa in a recently renovated 17th-century mansion.
The MTA did not say how many nights the rooms were booked for, nor did it provide full details of the cost, but a spokesperson for the authority confirmed that the accommodation cost was €165 per night per room.
“Sources in the authority have stated that the total cost is believed to be around 3,000 euros.”
When the spokesperson was asked why these rooms were requested, he said that they were intended to host staff providing “logistical support”, the details of which were not explained.
earlier this month, Times of Malta It reported how the MTA Events team made arrangements for a two-week stay at the prestigious Venice Hotel in the Christmas attraction, Fairyland, which was organized by the entity outside City Gate, Valletta.
It is understood that the Department of Tourism asked MTA staff to change plans after receiving press questions. More than a week after the story went viral, the authority confirmed that the authority had booked a room in Venice for 140 euros per night, although it did not say how many nights the room was booked.
Sources at the authority said the total cost is believed to be around 3,000 euros.
The property is understood to have been given the go-ahead by the head of events for the MTA, Lionel Gerada, who used the room himself. Kherada, who served as former Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, was appointed as head of events in 2018 when Mizzi was politically in charge of the entity.
He has faced allegations of awarding the lion’s share of public MTA contracts to a close network of individuals.
Questions sent about whether action will be taken against Gherada have so far remained unanswered by the MTA.
While high-ranking government sources said that Prime Minister Robert Abela instructed the Transport and Communications Authority to dismiss Gerada, it appears that the Authority’s chief executive, Johan Buttigieg, has so far failed to do so.
Instead, sources said Buttigieg tried to remove Gerada from the scene of events and take on a lesser role as head of quality assurance.
When that failed, sources said, Gerada went on vacation.
Questions have also been raised about the number of rooms reserved for performers at events organized by the MTA.
A spokesperson for the authority said that the contractual agreements signed for these events stipulate that a number of rooms must be reserved for international employees and performers in hotels near the event.
He said several hotels in the capital were used after a call for bids.
Foreign artists and staff have stayed in the 170 rooms of the Grand Hotel Excelsior at varying rates of between 160 and 180 euros per night for the BBC Orchestra and Pete Tong.
The spokesperson said 10 other rooms at the Phenicia Hotel were also occupied at a cost of €290 per night.
The latest Cirque Du Soleil was a taxpayer comparison bargain.
The MTA said foreign artists and staff have occupied 58 rooms at ST Hotels and Apartments in Gżira for €38 a night.
The MTA confirmed that no MTA employees were required to provide “logistical support” from this accommodation.
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