World Youth Day sees “rush of directly-awarded contracts”

Almost half public contracts worth over €38 million “celebrated in last seven months”

Just as Portuguese artist Bordalo II has managed to stage a very individual protest over the main altar erected for World Youth Day, Expresso reports that there has been a veritable rush of lucrative direct contracts awarded in the context of this mega Roman Catholic event.

Bordallo II’s installation, entitled ‘Walk of Shame’ – a form of carpet made up of gigantic look-alike €500 notes – was designed to highlight just how much is being splurged on World Youth Day “at a time when many people are fighting to keep their homes, their work and their dignity”.

“Millions of public funds have been invested to sponsor the tour” of what the artist dubs an “Italian multinational”.

Agree with him or not, the truth is that the bulk of €38.33 million in contracts were signed this year.

Of 194 contracts counted by Expresso, 91 (46.9% of the total) were celebrated in the last month at a value close to €6 million, “practically €200,00 every day”, says the paper.

In this (30-day) period, the weight of directly awarded contracts (contracts not put out to tender; essentially given to a company, without it having to compete with another contender) “rose 13 points to 83.5% of all contracts celebrated in comparison with the percentage verified between 2020 (when contracts began slowly to be awarded) and June 26 this year.

“These more than €38 million do not represent the full expenses of the State in the event”, the paper stresses, citing for example, the expenses for the altar-stage in Parque Eduardo VII (€450,000) “value of which was not reported on the BASE portal” (the portal showing State awarded contracts).

“Another number: 75.8% of the contracts identified by Expresso were celebrated ‘directly’ (no tenders), even large contracts which in normal conditions would demand a public tender process overseen by the Accounts Court (Tribunal de Contas)”, says the paper – listing some of them, in the sums of various millions of euros.

All these directly awarded contracts – 147 in total – were only possible thanks to article 149 of the law in the 2022 State Budget, approved by the majority of the government and which extended maximum amounts of all public contracts signed for World Youth Day

“This way, only 11% of contracts analysed by Expresso (22) went through a tender process; and only 24 (or 12.4%) required the prior consultation of public entities”.

Expresso remarks that there are “various public entities which stand out, either for the number of contracts realised, or amounts spent” (Loures town council, the government itself and Lisbon’s municipal company SUR), while various councils outside Lisbon “Felgueiras, Benavente, Amares, Esposende for example are investing thousands in guaranteeing transports and meals for residents of their boroughs travelling to the capital.

“There are all kinds of contracts: private security and advisors for various activities, €95,000 paid by (Lisbon mayor) Carlos Moedas to TVI to promote the city on television and on digital platforms, and more that €684,000 that the municipality of Oeiras gave a few days ago to promoting entity Everything is New to manage the logistics of activities scheduled for the Algés boardwalk, where Festival NOS Alive will happen. (Both these companies belonging, according to Expresso, to the same man.)

Then there are contracts that allowed the GNR to buy €9,500-worth of generators; INEM to buy 70 cellphones for almost €15,000, and the Institute of Wine to spend €3,500 (with no recourse to tender) for a “personalised sausage box to offer His Holiness, Pope Francis

“All told, this is just a slice of the World Youth Day cake in comparison with the estimate of costs advanced in recent months”, concludes Expresso. “The government estimates its part in €30 million, Lisbon (City Hall) has advanced with €35 million (€13.5 million more that initially forecast), and Loures with €9 million. 

“But the combined costs for the public purse with this visit of the Pope have still not been officially communicated by any of the parties involved, nor has the return to the country of this investment”.

World Youth Day begins on Tuesday August 1 with enormous anticipation being whipped up by the media – but at an extremely difficult time for everyday citizens, particularly those whose mortgage repayments have skyrocketed due to interest rate hikes, as artist Bordalo II was at pains to illustrate.

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