The ‘scandal’ goes back so far that most people have forgotten it, but the country’s accounts court has finally and definitively condemned former mayors Isabel Soares and Rogério Pinto over the Viga d’Ouro case that left Silves Council’s finances in tatters.
Soares acted “illegally and with guilt”, the court has reiterated in a statement made public this week – reaffirming the decision made earlier this year that she must pay a considerable share of the damages (click here).
The current head of Águas do Algarve displayed an attitude of “ethical-personal indifference” over debts incurred by the municipality – and by suspending payment of those debts, she left the council with “larger financial burdens than were due at the outset”.
Ordered to pay €228,399 plus interest, Soares is reported to be continuing to say that she finds the court’s decision “unjust”.
Rogério Pinto, on the other hand – the man who took Soares’ place as mayor when she left before the end of her 3rd mandate – is reported by tabloid Correio da Manhã to be believed to have paid the fine imposed for his part in the scandal: €30,632, plus interest.
Pinto was censured for basically “doing nothing” to end the “situations of illegality” that he inherited. The court ruled that his failure to act means that he has to be “considered illicit in his conduct”.
This latest ruling will come as vindication for the current administration under CDU mayor Rosa Palma.
Palma has navigated complex negotiations to keep the council’s finances afloat but always in the belief that the truth would come out (click here).
The two-term mayor has reacted to the accounts court’s latest ruling, saying “it is important that responsibilities (for this scandal) have been investigated”.
Total damages to Silves council in this case have been pegged at €668,000.
The Viga d’Ouro case centred on engineering works contracted by the council without recourse to any tenders.
Reports highlighted over 1,200 invoices submitted in batches by the company, each below the amount that would have required a tender to have been issued.
The situation even led to an inquiry into possible abuse of power, but this was later archived.
The end result however was that millions of euros worth of debts were incurred by the council to three banks (the now defunct BES, State bank CGD and BCP) which led to various ‘judicial actions’ – all of them heaping interest payments and fines on top of considerable sums due.