Councils welcome measure that “de-responsibilises” money badly spent

In another dismal cameo receiving little mention in Portugal’s mainstream media this week, the national association of borough councils has applauded a proposal in the new State Budget to basically let mayors off the hook in the case of money badly spent.

There is perhaps no coincidence in the fact that this measure comes in a week when one Algarve borough council discovered it faces bankruptcy over former mayoral decisions that contravened the terms of the region’s PDM.

Expresso tackles the issue, explaining the proviso is whether mayors are found to have ‘wasted money’ after following the so-called good advice of borough ‘technicians’.

According to the paper, the ANMP considers the clause (article 200 in the 2017 State Budget) “positive” and the answer to requests that have come “throughout the last four decades”.

It’s a reaction that doesn’t say much for the advice of municipal technicians, and which has brought resounding laments of “shameful” (and worse) over social media.

But as Expresso explains, the ANMP is not only giving the measure its thumbs up, it wants the wording tightened so as to be even more ‘protected’ from the responsibility of poor decision making.

“The association of councils proposes that the wording of article 200 could be improved, passing from the designation of ‘members of the executive organ of the municipal council’ to ‘members of the municipal executive’ – considering the initial wording ‘redundant, considering that the municipal council is the executive municipal organ”.

In case this reads like something from the Mad Hatter’s teaparty, Portugal still has the possible ‘sanity’ characterised by the Accounts Court, which has pronounced itself “concerned” by the proposed alteration in the law.

If the new clause is adopted, it will bring an end to the ability of the accounts court to fine or oblige any mayor/ council chief who has practised a financial act “considered illegal, or who has spent money badly” to pay said money back.

Expresso adds that under the terms of the current law, council bosses are responsible for money badly spent only when they have gone against advice given by council services.

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