Bills go right back to March 2020…
The worst of this financial ‘drama’ is that parishes have realised the current State Budget doesn’t even envisage paying their bills.
ANAFRE, the national association of parish councils, has finally spoken out over an issue that has been simmering – and causing anxiety – since the start of the pandemic.
Following an audience with President Marcelo in Belém today, association boss Jorge Veloso (PS), himself the president of the Union of parish councils of São Martinho de Bispo and Ribeira de Frades, in Coimbra, basically said parishes have been left in the dark, holding a very expensive burden.
“What we know is that every month, by the 15th of the month, we make out the report to the DGAL (general directorate for local authorities) in which we list the expenses that parishes have executed in the treatment of Covid and support for families in this regard”, he told reporters.
Diplomatically referring to attempts to be reimbursed as “approaches to the director general of DGAL, Sónia Ramalhinho”, he said she “has still not transmitted the term or time of payment”.
Mr Veloso is in a delicate situation, as he is being kept waiting for money from his own party.
That said, on May 5, his organisation “requested” that the 2022 State Budget (passed ‘very late’ this year due to January’s elections) would at least include reimbursement.
Hence Mr Veloso’s trip to Belém – clearly hoping President Marcelo can release the deadlock. But none of this is looking ‘easy’: Lusa describes secretary of State for local administration Carlos Miguel saying some of the expenses (entered into in good faith that they would be reimbursed by central government) “are not certified”.
“To have a debt, there has to be a contact”, he tells Lusa. “To have a debt there has to be commitment. What I want to say to you is the following: the effort made by municipalities, municipal and parish councils was enormous and we all just have to thank and show the same and try in every way to cover as much of these expenses as possible. It is true, and it is good to say here, that part of these expenses are not certified expenses. But the government is attentive and is open to reaching a fair solution”, he added.
None of this is sounding very positive for parish councils – but they are essentially ‘stuck’: they can’t make too much of a fuss because the government has written an increase into their budgets for this year, including €29 million to go on the salaries of mayors and deputy mayors.
They just have to hope, and trust that a fair solution will be found.
Where this financial mess leaves suppliers, Lusa hasn’t said. It could be (as it often is) that suppliers have been kept waiting for the settlement of their bills…