The Minister of the Environment said this Thursday that the decision of the Transtejo/Soflusa administration to buy ships without batteries was the one that was judged to be “the best” and admitted that the judgment of the Court of Auditors (TdC) creates “disorder”.
“I am absolutely convinced that the decision was made aware that it was the best that could be taken at the time”, said Duarte Cordeiro, who oversees urban transport, in statements to journalists in Évora.
The official said that these decisions by the Transtejo administration were taken because it was understood, at the time, that they were the “fastest to be able to promote” the operation of electric boats on the Tagus river.
Duarte Cordeiro was speaking about a TdC report in which Transtejo’s board of directors is accused of illegal and irrational practices and as a result of which he asked for his dismissal, which the Government has already accepted.
At issue is the purchase of nine batteries, for a value of 15.5 million euros, in an additional contract to another contract previously inspected by the TdC for the acquisition, for 52.4 million euros, of ten (one of them already with a battery for tests) new ships with battery electric propulsion, to ensure the public passenger transport service between the two banks of the Tagus.
In statements to journalists, at the end of awarding the Honoris Causa doctorate to the architect Carrilho da Graça, the minister stressed that the Government will have to “take decisions quickly” to be able to “award the batteries in time for the arrival of the boats”.
“This TdC decision is an obvious inconvenience and we have to quickly look at it and make decisions”, he underlined, pointing out as urgent the appointment of a new administration for the company and the constitution of a working group.
With “legal and financial” valences, he explained, this working group will analyze the TdC report and point out a path for “the necessary public procurement procedures” for the acquisition of batteries for the boats.
PCP and BE request a hearing from the minister and the company’s administration
The PCP and the BE have already asked for the Minister for the Environment to be heard and of the Board of Directors of Transtejo. The communists still want to hear the TdC.
According to the PCP’s request, “the fact that does not appear in the file, and as such is not considered by the Court of Auditors, is that these decisions by Transtejo were, not only known to the Government, but were openly defended by the then Minister of the Environment [João Pedro Matos Fernandes] before the Assembly of the Republic”.
“This investment, promised and postponed for years on end, involving an expense of tens of millions of euros, is made without any incorporation of the national shipbuilding industry – and it was Transtejo’s decision, now identified as “irrational” by the Court of Auditors , which led to the exclusion of a Portuguese shipyard that had a lower price when compared to the Spanish shipyard including the batteries of the ships”, criticize the communists.
For the PCP, “it is imperative to defend the public service and the company Transtejo, immediately investigating the responsibilities in these decisions and clarifying the solutions that will be adopted immediately to solve the problem”.
BE, on the other hand, considered in its application that “this whole process calls into question the quality of the public service provided to citizens and the respect for public procurement laws”.
Meanwhile, in a statement in Parliament, PSD deputy Fernando Negrão hailed the existence of “independent regulators” such as the TdC that produced this report, considering that “the Government did not monitor this deal as it should have done”.
Stressing that “a lot of money” is at stake and that “all of this had a bad result”, the social democrat said that this is “a very big loss because it was announced that these ships would start operating in the shortest possible time “.
Asked about any initiatives that the PSD will take, Negrão promises to analyze “the report in detail” and then do everything to “a kind of reduction in damage”, assuring that he will follow up these requests for hearing requests because “the situation is serious and must be clarified “.