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Secretary of State vows to reimburse GALP over football freebie revelations

Insinuations are running high this week, suggesting oil giant GALP could be greasing palms within the government – just as local populations rise up against nationwide plans for fossil fuel exploration.

Sábado, the national weekly run by the same company that owns Correio da Manhã, reveals that GALP paid for two journeys made by Secretary of State for Fiscal Affairs Rocha Andrade to the Euro 2016 football championships.

The five-star trips, on planes especially chartered for “friends of the oil company” would have cost around €700 per person, explains the paper – not advancing how many other people were aboard the flights at the same time, nor who these people were.

The planes, chartered via Porto travel agency Cosmos, took Rocha Andrade in VIP style to the electric Portugal versus Hungary match, and then later to the dramatic final in Paris against host country France.

But when quizzed about the ethics of accepting this kind of ‘freebie’, the Ministry of Finance was adamant: it is “completely natural” for a government bigwig to accept invitations from big business.

The ministry said in a statement: “The Secretary of State sees it as natural and within social adequacies to accept this kind of invitation – in this case, the invitation of a sponsor of the national team to attend a game of the national team.

“There is no basis here to speak of ethical conflict. For reasons already explained, we do not consider, in general, that there exists any conflict of interests. As to the specific question on ‘contentions’ with the company at issue we can refer that there exist a multiplicity of processes of a judicial nature involving the Government, something relatively normal in the relationship of a company of this size and the AT tax authority. It is to be stressed that the dealing of contentious processes and concrete decisions on judicial processes is a matter for the courts and not the Government”.

Nonetheless, the ensuing furore has prompted Rocha Andrade to declare he will be reimbursing GALP forthwith, “so that there can be no doubts of the independence of the government” and of himself.

As Observador website points out, another hot-potato in the public eye is GALP’s refusal to pay the stipulated “extraordinary contribution on energy” – amounting to well over 100 million euros.

The issue is one of the “mulitiplicity of processes” being fought through the courts.

But in case anyone should accept the ministry of finance’s justification, leader writer João Miguel Tavares has blasted off this morning with his opinion in Público.

“Accepting these kind of invitations could be banal, and I believe that if we had been given access to the full list of GALP’s guests we would spend the next two weeks showing our indignation. But for some reason, dear reader, the invitation was addressed to Rocha Andrade and not me. A secretary of state for fiscal affairs going to a football match sponsored by a tax payer of the dimension of GALP is not natural nor is it socially adequate. It is even less politically adequate… At issue is the fiscal conflict that pits GALP against the Portuguese State over the the payment of the extraordinary contribution on energy that the company has lodged in court.

“Yesterday we saw the Secretary of State on television defending the new rates rules. It was very instructive: we discovered that all houses exposed to sunlight should now pay more taxes. Now, all we need to learn is whether a secretary of State exposed to GALP’s favours makes that company’s taxes go down”

Tavares’ scathing article ended with a post-script: “After having written this text, Rocha Andrade said he would be “reimbursing GALP”. Thus, in the end, there must be some kind of ethical conflict”.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com