Only 15% of Portuguese water supply business ‘above suspicion’, says court

As a percentage of business showing “irregularities” it could hardly be worse. An audit of directly awarded contracts to public companies shows that Portuguese water supplier Águas de Portugal had a two-year period in which “85% of the cases examined show irregularities and insufficiencies”.

Long-winded reports in the media stop short of mentioning the ‘c’ word (for corruption) though at least one ends after several paragraphs with the inference of ‘negligence’.

What is curious is the timing of the news. The audit refers to a period that ended over three years ago, and as Dinheiro Vivo points out, 10 of the companies whose business dealings point to irregularities have since (conveniently) ‘disappeared’.

Indeed, their demise appears to be directly linked to the audit, which for reasons unknown was kept from public scrutiny until now.

Algarve English language website Algarve Daily News is convinced the whole thing stinks.

Portugal’s national water company is “awash with corruption” it claims – but of course, it may no longer be.

What happens next is also not entirely clear.

The Accounts Court (Tribunal de Contas) – which published the audit and its corresponding deliberations – reveals that the companies involved (presumably those that remain in existence) and the Finance Ministry now have 60 days in which they must “inform the Court in writing of the measures they will be adopting to comply with its recommendations” of how to operate without irregularities in future.

There will then follow a period of 180 days (roughly six months) after which “measures adopted and results obtained” must be communicated.

Only after all this has been allowed to take place will the Court consider whether there is sufficient grounds for those responsible for the ‘infractions’ to be cited for negligence.

Considering the proverbial water that by then will have flowed under the bridge, Águas de Portugal’s less than crystal clear past looks very likely to drain into oblivion.

Certainly, reports this far name no one and cite no ‘benefiting’ companies.

The “most flagrant case” – which not only flouted any notion of competitivity but also showed “clear damages to the public interest” – was that of a company hired without recourse to any kind of tender for 15 years for IT consultancy.

The total amount of money involved? Reports suggest we are looking at “global charges of €9.7 million”.

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