Fire chief exposes “long-running scam” behind firefighters’ “empty sandwiches”

The purported president of the ANBV national firefighters’ league Rui Silva has upped the ante on reports that exhausted men and women fighting the country’s wildfires – on wages of just €1.87 an hour – were fed “empty sandwiches” and meagre ‘meals’ lacking in nutritional content (click here).

In conversation with Público Silva claims Civil Protection authorities know full well that there exists a “scheme to finance fire station through diverting food payments”.

“Everybody know about it”, he stressed – saying he exposed the “scam” to the last government, as well as to the current minister for internal administration (Constança Urbano de Sousa), her secretary of state (Jorge Gomes) and Civil Protection commanders.

“No one does anything because the system is very powerful”, he added.

Silva took care to measure his words, saying: “I cannot use the word fraud” because where bills exist, they are paid”.

But the bills themselves are a “load of old nonsense”. Things like “grocer’s bills”, giving no real details of what has gone where.

As Silva explained: “The Civil Protection authority foments opportunism. It very often pays non-accredited sources to make meals, but as there is no checking system in place, it doesn’t want to know what it pays and to whom”.

The money ‘diverted’ from firefighters’ budgets goes towards “the purchase of equipment that fire stations need, or for other necessities in the barracks”.

In other words, no one is ‘making money’ from the scam – but firefighters are expected to work on empty stomachs.

Says Silva, it has been this way for years, but in the past it was “an exception. Now the exception is too often repeating itself. I cannot accept that firefighters are financed through food budgets”, he told Público – insisting that however unpopular his affirmations, he will not stop making them.

Civil Protection and the Ministry of Internal Administration have failed to comment however, citing confusion over the identity of the “legitimate representatives” of the firefighters’ association.

Público explains that there is a president (Rui Silva) and a president of the general assembly (Alzira Sousa).

What the paper hasn’t made clear is that while Silva may still present himself as president of the ANBV, he was technically ‘dismissed’ earlier this year.

During the devastating fires of Pedrógão Grande in June there were even reports of him being ‘arrested’ for alleged “misuse of functions”.

Silva meantime has said the confusion is all down to his having become “an inconvenience”.

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