Silves Mayor Rosa Palma is on the warpath. She has used her council’s website to publish damning documents attesting to “illegalities” committed by former PSD executives. Last week, the issues were only referred to as “irregularities” (see Silves Câmara in spotlight as independent auditors “point to practice of irregularities”). But now the heat has been turned up as the Viga d’Ouro scandal that contributed to Silves Câmara’s medium and long-term debts of over €13 million returns to centre stage days before the national elections.
Election ploy? This is what Rosa Palma’s opponents are alleging.
Former long-term mayor Isabel Soares – who saw a case centering on her alleged abuse of power over Viga d’Ouro archived years ago – simply laughed when we called her.
“Enough already,” Soares said. “None of this is anything new. This is just a copy paste of everything I did in 2006.
“She is simply justifying why she contracted an external report,” the current head of Águas do Algarve added, referring to Palma’s reams of documentation now laid bare for everyone to read.
“I have spoken enough about all this for many years,” Soares brought the conversation to a close.
But sweeping all the party-political bickering aside – and the fact the country goes to the polls on Sunday, with the PSD-led coalition looking like being ahead – the bottom line is a report that highlights extraordinary methods of accounting. In her “synthesis of the external audit”, Palma clearly lists them as “illegalities”.
To give an example, works involved were “supported by a set of 1,220 invoices (facturas) with values which did not exceed the quantity of €4,987.98, plus IVA, which indicate a fracturing of expenses to avoid the realisation of public tenders” as stipulated by law.
Palma has never made any bones about the desperate financial state of the council she won control of – against all expectations – in the municipal elections two years ago.
Palma easily trounced PSD mayor Rogério Pinto – who had taken over from Isabel Soares when Soares left her third mandate months before the elections to head-up Águas do Algarve.
The shock of her ascension to power was that Palma also beat the PS who had been hoping for a moment of glory.
The CDU ‘win’ has been conditioned ever since by the fact that the party did not secure a majority. Thus, if PSD and PS vote together, Palma’s hands are tied.
This is exactly what has been happening since 2013 on numerous issues.
As we wrote last week, when Palma produced the damning external audit last month – proposing that the council vote on taking legal action over past irregularities – she was vetoed by the PS/PSD opposition.
This veto showed the two parties to be “irreconcilable with the need to promote transparency” wrote Palma in a dispatch dated September 25 – the day she decided to “come clean” with all her documentation on the council website.
“The guiding principles of prosecution in the public interest should prevail in any circumstance,” Palma added, no matter what the position adopted by opposition councillors.
It is now a case of “let the fireworks begin”. The PDF files are all on the council website, for open consultation and as Palma told us back in 2013: “Everything will come out in due course. Everyone will hear about it…”
Viga d’Ouro “in a nutshell”
Briefly, the Viga d’Ouro ‘scandal’ in Silves centred on building work contracted by the council to the Viga d’Ouro company without any of the projects being put to public tender. Viga d’Ouro thus ‘won’ innumerous well-paid jobs without having to bid against any other companies. The ‘facts’ all relate back to the years 2004-2006. A police investigation began after various “factoring contracts” with three banks, including BES, went pear-shaped. Silves Câmara was eventually “condemned to pay €1 million”, writes Correio da Manhã in its archives, and it emerged from the scandal with debts of nearly €5 million. But the case, and all issues stemming from it – including the ‘abuse of power’ suspicions over former mayor Isabel Soares and two other councillors – were eventually archived.
Over a million in payments to law firm
Also in the spotlight now are payments by Silves’ former PSD council to law firm PLMJ, from 2006 to October 2013. Why were PLMJ paid a total of €1,049,673.43 for work which, again, claims Palma, was not budgeted for?
The bulk of payments “implicate illegality” by “those responsible for the council at the time”, Palma’s executive wrote on September 23.
For now, documentation can be found on Silves’ municipal website: