Inconvenient questions over government’s purchase of 355,000 Post Office shares

Socialist leader ‘implicated’ – but denies any responsibility

Yet another ‘political row’ promises to heat up the pre-election campaign that already has party leaders slinging mud at each other. This latest is the purchase of more than 355,000 CTT (Post Office) shares at a time when Socialist leader Pedro Nuno Santos was Minister for Infrastructure.

The apparent plan behind the purchase was to give the government some leverage in the renegotiation of the concession.

Pedro Nuno Santos is known to have been critical of the privatisation of CTT in 2013-14. Thus, the purchase of shares, between 2020 and 2021 – with the intention of potentially gaining leverage – has been seen by opponents as very likely to have been a plan orchestrated by him, in his capacity as minister for infrastructures. 

Nuno Santos meantime refutes this: I was in charge of the portfolio, but I’m not the one giving guidance to the minister of finance and Parpública” (the entities which okayed the deal), he told journalists, “while walking at a brisk pace through the corridors of parliament”, writes Lusa.

“It has to be the government that provides clarification” on the matter, he stressed.

The Socialist leader’s ‘explanations’ have been denounced by PSD counterpart Luís Montenegro as “a crock of s***. He said the mere fact that the purchase was effected, without any prior announcement and now the minister in charge of the portfolio refuses to discuss it, shows “it is time for these people with this political and governing culture to leave the government”.

Jornal Económico newspaper broke this story on Tuesday, saying that the previous (minority) Socialist government had, without announcing it, instructed State company Parpública to buy CTT shares through an order issued by the then minister of finance, João Leão.

According to the online, the purchase “took place after demands from the Left Bloc to approve the State Budget for 2021” – that party being one of two that the then minority government was relying on to get its initiatives through parliament.

The Left Bloc’s national coordinator, Mariana Mortágua, and its parliamentary leader, Pedro Filipe Soares, have in the wake of the Jornal Económico report denied having known of the share purchase or having entered into any negotiations with the government of the time in this regard – while acknowledging that the party’s policy was for CTT to be renationalised.

In other words, this is a story that ‘smells bad’, but no-one is quite sure what it all means.

Right wing parties CHEGA and Iniciativa Liberal have both said thay mean to use potestative debates on January 10 and 11 to question the government further on this deal (the expense of which has also not been spelled out).

João Torres, the future campaign manager for Pedro Nuno Santos’ election campaign, has “guaranteed” that any State intervention along these lines will have been “to safeguard the public interest”, while political commentator José Gomes Ferreira has remarked on the ‘strange similarity’ this new controversy has with the Alexandra Reis golden handshake debacle, that prompted Pedro Nuno Santos’ resignation as infrastructures minister.

He told SIC Notícias yesterday that the Alexandra Reis golden handshake “was the result of a lack of transparency and a certain promiscuity in the functioning of the institutions. This (new controversy)  looks like it is a carbon copy. The same Prime Minister and Pedro Nuno Santos as Minister for Infrastructure…” ND

Sources: Lusa/ SIC Notícias