Manuel Pizarro was
Manuel Pizarro was "just trying to help a friend". Image: José Coelho/ Lusa

Health minister “under suspicion, being investigation by Public Prosecutor”

Manuel Pizarro has “no knowledge of any case”

According to State news channel RTP, the suspicions involve alleged crimes of prevarication and/ or abuse of power. But health minister Manuel Pizarro claims not to have been contacted; says he “had no knowledge of any case”, but admits to “just trying to help a friend”.

Could this story be just another attempt at more muck-raking in a party already under fire? 

Multiple media reports carry versions  today – none of them ‘splashing it across headlines’: health minister Manuel Pizarro “may have asked for a favour” to help another Socialist Party member get a job for which he was not fully-qualified. 

Only, it’s not completely clear.

According to reports, Mr Pizarro asked the mayor of Vila Nova de Gaia for the favour when he (Pizarro) was a Euro MP. (Vila Nova de Gaia municipality being in the news right now for all the wrong reasons).

Mayor Eduardo Vítor Rodrigues, claimed yesterday not to be able to remember if this happened, but said  Mr Pizarro “may have asked for a favour…”

The confusion deepens when it transpires there may not even have been a need for this particular opening on the council. “There was only a tender (for the job) because Manuel Pizarro asked for it”, say reports.

So, we are talking about a ‘job that wasn’t in fact required, potentially to be given to a Socialist party member who wasn’t qualified for it’. But, in this case, it seems to be that the Socialist Party member didn’t end up getting the job, thus the whole story could be a case of Friday intrigue to be forgotten by Monday (or even Saturday…)

Eduardo Vítor Rodrigues however has been constituted an ‘arguido’ (official suspect) in an investigation into suspicions of prevarication (misuse of public office) that extend beyond the possibility of having been asked a favour by Manuel Pizarro.

Expresso explains: “Eduardo Vítor Rodrigues is accused of corruption, abuse of power and prevarication. The mayor is alleged to have had the help of Jorge Botelho, current PS MP for Faro and former Secretary of State (as well as former Algarve mayor, and leader of AMAL) to avoid losing his mandate in 2016 after he breached a contract with the State by not increasing IMI after getting a loan to pay the debts of the Gaia City Council.

“According to the suspicions of the Public Prosecutor, Rodrigues allegedly undermined a sentence of loss of mandate by a court by convincing Jorge Botelho not to homologate a report by the Inspectorate General of Finance certifying that he had violated the agreement with the State. The mayor was re-elected and the sentence even ended up losing effect because it only referred to the previous mandate.

The Mayor of Gaia is also alleged to have allowed the Board of Directors of GAIURB (Gaia’s urban and housing company) “in an arbitrary way”, “without any request for expenditure” to carry out public contracts with the Global Media group (which includes “Diário de Notícias”, “Journal de Notícias” and TSF radio). “Eduardo Vítor Rodrigues allegedly asked a member of the company’s board of directors for newspapers and radio stations belonging to the group to prepare news and cover conferences promoting the work of the Gaia local authority and its mayor”, says Expresso.

Manuel Pizarro meantime has made it clear today that he is not an official suspect in any investigation. What he did (in trying to help a fellow Socialist) was “normal”. He insists he did not ask for “exceptional treatment”.

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