Transparency association concerned about corruption

By CHRIS GRAEME [email protected]

The Civic Association for Transparency and Integrity (TIAC) has sounded alarm bells over what it describes as “less than transparent appointments” at electricity giant Energias De Portugal (EDP) and state-run bank Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD).

The entity believes that unless the Government makes significant changes to avoid Portugal’s perennial problem of ‘jobs for the boys’, it will fail to meet guidelines laid down by the international bailout ‘troika’.

The President of the TIAC, Luís de Sousa, says the group is particularly concerned about the Government’s lack of effort in fighting “business promiscuity”, traffic of influence and corruption in the management of wholly or partially State-run companies.

“Unless there are serious efforts to fight and prevent behaviour in positions of power in Portugal, things won’t change,” he warned.

The warning shots follow the appointments of António Nogueira Leite, a former secretary of state and leading PSD party member, Nuno Fernandez Thomaz, former secretary of state and leading CDS party member, and PSD lawyer, Pedro Rebelo de Sousa to the board of Caixa Geral de Depósitos.

These appointments, say the TIAC, show a “lack of scrutiny over conflicts of interest”, which “perpetuates a problem which is always the same: appointing people who are high up in the governing political party”.

Another worrying sign, according to TIAC, is the Government’s intention to directly sell the State’s Golden Share capital without going through a public competitive competition.

“A competition is a competition and needs to be transparent. It cannot be opaque and unintelligible to the public,” said Luís de Sousa.

Part of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Government and the ‘troika’ made up of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund in return for a €78 billion bailout package was a major structural reform in the way government business is done, particularly fostering greater transparency and fairer competition in appointments, sell offs and privatisations in large companies.

So far, neither the President of the Portuguese Parliament (AR) Assunção Esteves or the Deputy Secretary of State, Carlos Moedas have commented on the TIAC concerns over nominations and appointments.

The Government’s silence over the fight against corruption was only broken when its programme was presented by the new justice minister, Paula Teixeira da Cruz, who agreed that the Government’s programme “promised to take initiatives so that the country would have an effective system in the fight against corruption, informal dealings and appointments and the maintenance of dominant positions through influence”.