Air Force ‘continues to hire firms answering in court for corruption’

Businesses charged with corruption are still receiving lucrative State contracts.

Say reports, it is almost impossible to block the companies from continuing to bid for public tenders as they ‘must be considered innocent until proven guilty’.

Thus the situation within the Air Force of at least one of the companies cited for corruption in Operation Zeus – the alleged multi-million mess fraud (click here) – having celebrated a new contract to provide canteens with ‘drinks and aperitifs’.

According to Sábado it’s a case of “the military not wanting to discriminate against anyone”.

Aires Cardoso – one of many firms being heard in the trial ongoing in Sintra – was chosen out of a field of three, back in February.

Said a military source, the criteria for choosing suppliers is “objective and non-discriminatory” and the Air Force “did not have a legal foundation from excluding the business” from its consultation process.

It transpired that Aires Cardoso “presented the most advantageous conditions (lowest price), which naturally presents benefits for the Treasury”.

But this situation has not been confined to drinks and aperitifs.

In something of an outburst yesterday (Wednesday) defence minister João Gomes Cravinho complained of the fact that companies are much too free to “push Portugal around”.

The government is hostage to a dysfunctional mechanism that leaves it at the mercy of private companies, he said – referring to the situation regarding the hiring of firefighting airpower.

Right now, as the hottest part of the summer approaches a country that is tinderbox dry, only 39 of the appliances required have been contracted.

This is due to the weight of court actions lodged by private companies that have ‘lost tenders’.

Explain reports, the moment a company puts in a bid for an injunction, the contract it was tendering for is paralysed.

Right now there are “five batches of air power” saddled by injunctions, and more “awaiting approval from the Accounts Court”.

The only way round the quandary is to enter into ‘directly awarded’ business (not involving tenders), said Cravinho, insisting that whatever happens the country “has the conditions to respond to its needs”.

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