Very quietly on Saturday while focus was on the government’s measures for Christmas and New Year, Portugal’s president Marcelo vetoed the parliamentary diploma that caused a political storm back in October (click here).
At the time, so much in terms of the pandemic was happening, that the implications of the controversy were quickly forgotten. But clearly not enough to pass onto the Statute Books.
President Marcelo has justified his decision yesterday with the demand for greater control over legality, notwithstanding the government’s desire for ‘simplification’.
Simplification was given as the reason for making “an extensive alteration” to proceedings under the Code of Public Contracts and the Procedural Code in Administrative Courts in order to facilitate contracts financed by European funds.
The Accounts Court didn’t see the alteration as ‘simplification’: they saw it as a proposal that “opened the door to the possibility of collusion, cartelization and corruption” – whereupon the president of the Accounts Court was ‘contacted’ by prime minister António Costa to say ‘thank you for your last years of service but we won’t be renewing your mandate’.
Critics saw this as the PM trying to “control and limit all power” which, if he was, he has summarily failed to do.
The whole thing will be back now for reformulation and new debate in parliament.
In October, the diploma only passed by the skin of its teeth in the first place: votes for from the PS, abstention from the PSD and votes against by all the other parties.
Say reports today, the government considered its legislation “essential to agilise the execution process of community funds, namely the amounts coming under the Multiannual Financial Framework (2021/ 2027) and the Eurpopean Union recovery fund to face the current crisis, programmes that involve around 57 billion euros”.
Welcoming the presidential veto, Sara Coroado, president of the association Transparency and Integrity (Portugal’s arm of Transparency International) told TSF radio this was the “ideal moment to review rules for the attribution of community funds”.
According to Ms Coroado, this would provide answers to the president’s concerns, and hopefully improve “other aspects that also appear a little dubious”.