IN A recent press conference given by the President of Faro Câmara José Apolinário, exactly 100 days after taking office, the announcement was made that the council is facing “serious financial difficulties”.
To put a finer point on it, Faro Câmara is “technically bankrupt”, a situation made more serious due to the fact that the council is not authorised to take out bank loans.
Just 30 days after assuming the presidency, Apolinário and his team were reportedly faced with a demand for damages totaling two million euros, following the outcome of a legal case relating to the expropriation of land by the council in 1998. A case Apolinário blames on former president, José Vitorino, citing “irresponsible behaviour”. Apparently, when publicly quizzed about the matter, Vitorino denied all knowledge of the situation even though, says the current president, “he and his closest colleagues dealt with the matter”.
In another bitter attack on his predecessor, Apolinário stated that some of the projects launched during Vitorino’s term in office ran way over budget, with costs escalating to three million euros. This, in addition to other expenses left unpaid from 2005, means that the budget for 2006 has had to be reduced by a massive four million euros. A situation that will see the current executive controlling expenditure extremely tightly and making serious financial adjustments.
Evaluating Vitorino’s presidency, Apolinário considers that “absurdly irresponsible behaviour was shown”. He gave as examples a package of projects and initiatives that went out for tender without the required time for planning and evaluation, which is necessary when public money is being spent.
Apolinário mentioned the suspension of work on the athletics track just a few days after it began, due to the fact that the required land study had not been made. The cost of putting this right is 600,000 euros, another leftover bill for the new council to absorb.
Apparently, building work on the city’s new sports pavilion also had to be stopped last November, as the northern beam was in danger of collapse, a situation that has cost the Câmara many thousands of euros. These are some of the examples given to describe the “mess” that the socialists say they found when taking over in Faro at the end of last year.
One of the ways Apolinário and his team are trying cope with their financial difficulties is by opening the doors to the public and creating a two-way dialogue with residents. A counsel is being set up to facilitate a forum to debate Faro’s future strategy. According to the Câmara, 1,024 residents have been seen so far under the new approach.
Consultation with other entities over forthcoming projects has also proved successful, with the marina project being given a favourable environmental impact report, the project to convert Estoi Palace to a Pousada (lodge) also going ahead, among others. The Câmara also announced that its enquiry and complaints service for residents has also been revolutionised, with many procedures being altered to make it less bureaucratic.