It is not illegal, but is it a conflict of interest? This is what Público has been trying to find out, following news that Luís Araújo, the president of Turismo de Portugal is also a 15% partner in Casas do Barão, a businesses that rents out rooms to tourists in Lisbon’s up-market Chiado district.
The issue here is that Araújo’s authority is responsible for ‘policing’ Alojamento Local businesses, not to mention creating laws for them.
Is it really right and proper that someone with so much clout in the sector should also be operating within it?
Araújo has said there is nothing illegal about the situation, and he claims there is no conflict of interest.
“There is no incompatibility”, he assured Público. “What would be serious would be if I took advantage of my job for personal gain, which I do not, and never have”.
So that’s got that sorted.
Público however continues digging.
“Legislation does not explicitly prohibit the President of Turismo de Portugal from being a shareholder in a touristic business”, the paper concedes.
But by being a “public institute of special regime”, those in charge are bound by the statute that governs public sector bosses and establishes that they “must recuse themselves from taking part in deliberations in which they have an interest”.
The same statute refers to “incompatibilities and impediments” for those in public office (or with political powers), ensuring that businesses in which public officials have shares “cannot candidate for State tenders”, and those in charge are equally barred from intervening “in any administrative proceedings in which said companies and/ or collective people intervene”.
What is true, nonetheless, is that Casa de Barão got its licence to operate before Araújo took the reins of power.
But Público makes the point that Turismo de Portugal is “one of the entities with an active voice in the drawing up of laws on Alojamento Local”.
Right now, for example, there is a study to determine whether people running tourist lodging from their properties should be paying more in condominium charges than fellow residents who don’t, and there are discussions underway on how to limit the number of Alojamento Local businesses in big cities.
Turismo de Portugal’s “code of conduct” precludes “workers in this institute” from taking part in “decisions, acts or contracts” in which spouses, relatives or similar are “directly or indirectly interested”.
As the paper explains, Araújo’s husband is the majority shareholder in Casas de Barão, which has “as its objective” the “placing of tourists in furnished touristic complexes, as well as the exploration of hotels with restaurant facilities”.
The company with €50,000 in capital is “also dedicated to providing operational assistance and consultancy services to companies”, “buying and selling properties” and the “construction, repair, transformation and restoration of residential and non-residential buildings, either executed ‘in house’ or via contractors or subcontractors”.
Needless to say, Araíjo is still adamant, telling Público: “From a legal point of view, everything is OK”.