Welcome to a new episode of the never-ending saga to get basic information from the government of Malta about how it spent taxpayer money on Facebook.

In last month’s episode, Lovin Malta filed a very simple Freedom of Information request.

We pointed out the Office of the Prime Minister’s declaration back in 2017 that it spent €553,393 on social media ads. We also asked for a thorough breakdown of how this money was spent, and whether the money was spent on the official OPM Facebook page or the personal Facebook page of Joseph Muscat.

Our request was rejected, firstly because “the resources required to locate and collate the requested information would substantially divert the resources of the public authority from its other operations” and secondly because the OPM and the Prime Minister “never had a Facebook page financed through public funds”.

If you remember, we filed an appeal to this rejection, together with a nice little tutorial video explaining how simple it is to ask Facebook for a breakdown of the €553,393 that the government itself had reported spending.

We also asked for an alternative explanation for how more than half a million euro of taxpayer money was spent on social media when the OPM and the Prime Minister allegedly did not have a Facebook page.

Many days later, we have received a reply to our appeal.

The good news is that the government is no longer claiming the information will be too burdensome or expensive to collect. The bad news is that they’re still withholding the information on the grounds of a ridiculous and demonstrably untrue assertion.

“Kindly note that OPM never had a Facebook page and public funds were never used for a Prime Minister Facebook page,” they said.

Needless to say, we’ve just filed a fresh appeal, this time to the Information and Data Protection Commissioner. Yes, sadly that’s the same person who recently justified the withholding of such information on the grounds that such Facebook pages never existed.

So we added their URLs just in case: www.facebook.com/maltagov and www.facebook.com/josephmuscatdotcom

See you next time for the next instalment of this journey.

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Cover photo by William Krause on Unsplash

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