Parliment
Ructions in and out of parliament continue in the wake of the TAP golden handshake furore. Image: Lusa

Socialists reject parliamentary hearing of ‘main players’ in TAP payoff scandal

“Let’s wait for results of report by general-inspectorate of finances”

The parliamentary group of Portugal’s Socialist Party has today ‘rejected’ calls by opposition parties CHEGA, PSD, PCP, and Bloco de Esquerda for the hearing in parliament of principal players in the TAP golden handshake row, among them former infrastructures minister Pedro Nuno Santos and TAP CEO Christine Ourmières-Widener.

The parties’ requests were “discussed and voted on this morning, where they were rejected”, explains Lusa.

“The parties wanted to hear former infrastructure minister, Pedro Nuno Santos, finance minister, Fernando Medina, former secretary of state for the treasury, Alexandra Reis, the chairman of the board of directors of TAP, Manuel Beja, and the executive chairman of TAP, Christine Ourmières-Widener, for explanations about the case of the €500,000 compensation of Alexandra Reis when she left the airline, which led to resignations in the government in recent days”.

This is putting it mildly: parties smell a very stinky rat, and they want to run it to ground.

For now, the rejection has been ‘lamented’:

“At a time when the whole country is talking about this issue, in the proper place, in parliament, where the activity of the government is supervised, the PS allowed itself, against (the wishes of ) all the other parties, to vote against the request to hear how everything happened in this TAP process,” PSD Social Democrat MP Paulo Rios de Oliveira told reporters after the meeting.

The PSD will now use its right of appeal to force a hearing of Fernando Medina in the finance committee, said Paulo Rios de Oliveira, suggesting this “should take place next week”.

“The PS – and it is easy to understand why – does not even want to establish the facts, nor does it want (people) to draw conclusions”, he said.

Bloco de Esquerda MP Mariana Mortágua also believes MPs “have a duty to scrutinise this case”.

“The parliamentary group of the Socialist Party rejected all proposals to hear those responsible for the TAP case. The parliamentary group of the Socialist Party prevented parliament from scrutinising the case that shook the country, that shocked the country and was responsible for the resignation of members of the government. We think this refusal gives further reasons for parliament to approve a commission of inquiry”, she said.

All PS attempts so far to deflect media attention from this case seem to be failing.

PM Costa has even donned a hard hat this morning, striding through building sites in a bid to show how busy his government has been in using EU money to ‘revitalise’ the country.

Addressing opposition parties’ recriminations, PS MP Carlos Pereira stressed the parliamentary group simply feels “one should wait for the report of the inspector general of finance”.

There is also the small matter of the inquiry launched by the State Prosecution Service (although he did not mention that).

Carlos Pereira went on: “Given the known data, political responsibilities were assumed by the government, as it seems to me they could not be otherwise. In any case, we consider that more information should be added in order to be able to take more responsibility, if necessary, or, in some way, to have more in-depth scrutiny. We consider that this report is absolutely essential to be able to continue the debate…”

Thus PS Socialists have bought more time on a day when new members of government are being sworn in, and in which no new scandals appear to have broken.

Something ‘unusual’ has taken place, however: Pedro Nuno Santos has made an unexpected announcement, reports SIC television news.

“He has asked the prime minister (for permission) to leave the Socialist Party’s National Secretariat, the political body that advises the secretary-general (in other words Mr Costa).

“This means the former minister will be left out of all political decisions of the PS. Pedro Nuno Santos has belonged to the PS National Secretariat since António Costa came to power, and was even seen as one of his successors”, says the station.

It’s unclear what Mr Nuno Santos’ decision ‘means’, particularly as figures within the party have insisted on the importance of his position within it, even now that he is out of government.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com