terça-feira, 29 de maio de 2012

PSD Youth Leader Resigns

José Pedro Pereira, the 'charismatic' leader of the PSD-Madeira Youth, popularly known as Mijinhas due to an episode when he allegedly peed on a police car, resigned from his leadership position today.

Pereira is a die-hard fan of Jardim and an advocate of Madeiran independence who tried endearingly hard to emulate his mentor's loutish and violent style. His taking of Bertie's theatrics at face value and his clumsy over-enthusiasm, however, often had the embarrassing - and admittedly very funny effect - of hyperbolizing Bertie's rhetoric and exposing the ridicule of his 'dramas'.

The resignation follows the controversy over a press release insulting his Socialist counterpart. The press release was issued by the secretary of the PSD Youth, Candelária - who denied its authorship, repudiated its content and resigned from the organization in protest.

In his resignation statement, Mijinhas said he would be return to politics stronger and more mature  - to lead the PSD and become future President of the Madeiran Government.

Last week, one of his underlings from the Youth movement was convicted for defaming the PND member Gil Canha during the 2009 election campaign - he had been holding a banner saying: Canha, escape to Brasil, the Venezualean justice is after you.

Bertie Skips Motion of No Confidence

The regional parliament, today, was set to debate a motion of no confidence proposed by the Socialist Party. The President of the Regional Government, who never goes to Parliament, simply ignored the debate, sending a single junior member of his executive to represent the Government.

In view of the Government's absence, the Socialists withdrew the motion, calling on the President of Portugal to either dissolve parliament or ensure the Government is present at such debates, as would be the norm in a real democracy.

Jardim called the motion of no confidence 'an episode of political terrorism mounted against the President of the Regional Government.' 'This folklore on the part of small parties aims to disturb government, through constant intentions to summon us to Parliament, when the government members are far too busy concentrating on the more important challenges of the future of the Madeiran people.' -  Bertie was due to be giving a talk to pupils of a school in Curral das Freiras. Too busy to be accountable to Parliament then...

domingo, 27 de maio de 2012

The Government’s 1878 Hidden Bills

Source: Expresso

A Court Auditor’s Report concludes that the Madeira hidden debt was the result of the deliberate actions of five members of Jardim’s Government: Santos Costa, Secretary in charge of Public Works between 2000 and 2011; Ventura Garçês, the Secretary of Finances, and another three subordinates.

The audit uncovered that the hidden debt corresponded to 1878 bills, almost all related to public construction projects build between 2003 and 2010. The issuing and registering of the bills had been successively put on hold.

The conclusions point to grave infractions in terms of not reporting  to the National Statistics Institute and the Budget Directorate General, as required by law. Those responsible are therefore liable to criminal prossecution (hardly likely in Portugal).

Those responsible alledged they had difficulty in circulating documents between the services, also blaming their computer programs for delays in issuing and registering bills. The Court Auditors were not convinced.

Such excuses, the report reads, could never  justify discrepancies to the order of seven hundred million Euros over seven years, particularly since there were several moments every year which obliged the Secretariat to make a balance of the budgetary and financial situation of the Secretariat.   

810 million of the 862 million unpaid debt, hidden over the years, relate to construction projects. A further 404 million correspond to interest on arrears owed to twelve builders – the result of extravant clauses in the contracts relating to delays in payment.

The hidden debt was successively regularized with the builder in 2008, 2009 and 2010 without ever setting a limit on the interest in arreas. Just in the period of six months between December 2010 and June 2011, the interest grew by 40 million. One of the violations of the Budget Law denounced by the audit relates precisely for the lack of justification for the accumulation of interest.

Why should Madeiran’s pay for this scam. The construction companies were in on the scam and did very nicely out of it, making sure they kept Bertie in power to ensure the money kept rolling in and that he would keep them happy with lots of new construction projects – to be inaugurated during the election campaign.The constructors – who are all heavily linked to Jardim and Jaime Ramos – should also be held criminally responsible for playing along in hiding the debt, duping the electorate to keep benefitting from the Jardim dictatorship.

quarta-feira, 23 de maio de 2012

The Bacelar Case

This law case reports to the nineteen nineties. It could seem an apparently innocuous case about a civil servant who illegitimately claimed large amounts of money for expenses, the unusual is that the the Public Prosecutor's charges were initially made against nine members of the government hierarchy, right up to the Secretary of Finances.

The story: Bacelar was an elderly civil servant who worked in the Financial Inspectorate and was reluctantly persuaded to become its director, despite being uneager and underqualified. While the former was perceived by the powers that be as a bonus, the latter presented a problem: Bacelar could not legally earn a director's salary. A solution was found to keep him sweet. He would be paid the difference in expenses for work trips to the next door island of Porto Santo - journeys he never made… he was obliging enough to sign in for work in Madeira, while he was officially away for work in Port Santo… Although the whole hierarchy was in on the scam, indeed they had thought it up and implemented it, only Bacelar was eventually convicted - the judge dropped the charges against the eight other accused before the trial began.

The story behind the story. The Financial Inspectorate had the task of checking on various matters, among them imports, smuggling and counterfeit goods - the services had recently been regionalized - and the Regional Government had a problem: Bacelar's predecessor, João Alberto Freitas, was rather keen on his duties. He sunk his teeth into the scam of importing out-of-date meat from the EU, unfit for consumption, which was relabeled and sold on the local market. He repeatedly inspected the Patio restaurant, then owned by the all-powerful Jaime Ramos, and was told by his superiors, in no uncertain terms, to back off. 

João Alberto didn't back off. He was removed from duty, subjected to disciplinary proceedings (filed by Bertie's pal Guilherme Silva) and sent to stew in a rat poison warehouse. Still having faith in the 'great leader', he wrote him a letter denouncing the whole situation. This coincided with the period after the silver exhibition was stolen from the Regional Parliament and the regime was shaken by corruption scandals. Bertie John, ever the actor, called on all those who wished to denounce corruption to write to him personally. 

By the time João Alberto Freitas wrote his third denunciation letter, his patience was wearing thin and the language he used also - the great leader flaunted the third letter as evidence that the man had never been quite right in the head. Of the corruption letters campaign, Bertie was to say that he had received 300 letters in all, but only one had talked about corruption. His Government was as clean as a whistle!

But the Bacelar case moved on, and however much the powers that be denied it, it was clear that the whole hierarchy had approved the illicit payment scheme - essentially to have someone docile on the job. The priority, Government wisdom preached, was to enlighten business people, not to inspect them. But why spend five months a year enlightening the business community of Porto Santo, where there were only a handful of businesses?

The Court Auditor's report was crystal clear,  apart from the detail that Bacelar had signed in for work in Funchal when he was officially away, there were no documents, tickets or bills to support the payments for Bacelar's obviously fictitious Porto Santo trips! The hierarchy, right up to the Secretary had to be in on the scheme! Bacelar was a bozo: useless, dispensable, a scapegoat. 

The remarkable and unusual aspect of this case is that the Public Prosecutor actually contested the judge's decision to drop the charges against the other eight accused - the only ones who had the power and the means to implement the scheme.   

The lesson: there are three legs to the Portuguese justice system, each presents an opportunity for Bertie to knobble it.

Commission of Election condemns Jornal for the 4th time

The National Commission of Elections has for the fourth time determined that the Jornal's coverage during the election period was biased in favor of the PSD. THE FOURTH TIME.

The case has been sent to the Public Prosecutor's office for criminal procedures. Will the Public Prosecutor's Office take any action? I hope the case is not given again to Assistant Prosecutor Gameiro, since there is a conflict of interests - friendships.

domingo, 20 de maio de 2012

Ex-Mayor of Santana Condemned for Malfeasance

Carlos Pereira, ex-Mayor of Santana and Abel Almada, City Councillor were both condemned to suspended sentences of three and a half years and three years respectively, for malfeasance.

The sentences were suspended on condition that they pay 20,000 and 10.000 Euros respectively, to four charities. 

The case reported to the government-funded tennis court, built by a local club on the grounds of a private hotel. The charges that the whole operation was a scam were dropped, thus absolving Jaime Lucas, former head of the Madeira Sports Institute - now a local MP for the PSD. 

The Mayor and Councillor were convicted for having allowed the court to be built without a license. They alleged that government projects did not require a municipal license, ignoring the fact that the Sports Club was the entity in charge of the project. 

The sentence read: The illegality of the conduct of the accused is serious, because in their anxiety to legalize a project, with the sole aim of allowing it to be inaugurated one week before the 2004 regional elections  to the benefit of the parties involved, they neglected the minimum basic rules of procedure.

Jardim reacted to the sentence insinuating that the two were convicted due to the political bias of the judges and that the convictions would be overturned on appeal.

He may be right in that the sentence may be overturned. The judges, far from showing political bias, had already thrown out the more damaging charges of fraud, letting Lucas, Candelária and other PSD henchmen off the hook; what remained were minor charges. 

Shades of the Bacelar case….(more on that later)

New Law for for Foundations will impact Madeira PSD Foundation

The new law for foundations, passed last week through the Portuguese Parliament will have great impact on the Madeira PSD Foundation, particularly as regards transparency. The local PSD foundation owns circa 56 buildings which it then leases to the Party's local branches. The new law obliges the foundation to divulge its annual account on the net and who are its donors.

For years, the Foundation has been subject of controversy for its total lack of transparency, for the apparent incompatibility of its office-holders (Jardim, Jaime Ramos and his right hand men), for the question mark over its donors and for its dubious charitable status. 

The foundation's charitable action was to hand out scholarships for higher education, but most of its activities were clearly political - even the scholarships, some youths complained, were granted under pressure to join the Social-Democrat Youth Party. The Foundation had recently stopped grant payments due to alleged lack of funding, so what still justifies its 'public utility' status?

Miguel Albuquerque, the Mayor of Funchal resigned from the Foundation last month. 

The law comes too late help us understand the glory years of the foundations when dozens of earth-laden trucks from all the big construction companies went to dump their loads in the foundation's landfill, in the huge forested area they bought in the mountains… Nevertheless, transparency may dictate the end of the Foundation, or at any rate, its current usefulness to Bertie's Party.

quinta-feira, 17 de maio de 2012

PSD abandons Parliament over vote of condolences for EuroMP Miguel Portas

The CDS party yesterday presented a vote of condolences in memory of the recently deceased EuroMP Miguel Portas. The vote was boycotted by PSD parliamentary leader, Jaime Ramos, who abandoned the session, followed by a number of PSD MPs.
This is the second time in the last month that the PSD walked out of a parliamentary session. The previous occasion occurred when an opposition MP requested the floor to defend his honour. This time, however, only a handful of MPs followed Ramos out, his son and a number of other MP’s remained.
The opposition, apart from the CDS, also abandoned the Parliament two days ago in protest at the absence of the Government who never appear to defend the diplomas they send for Parliamentary approval.
The chair of the Parliament adopts a dual criteria for dealing with these protests. When the PSD abandons the session, he calls for a break; when the opposition walks out, the session carries on as usual. The most notorious occasion was when all the opposition walked out in protest over a PSD motion to have then Socialist opposition leader’s mental sanity examined by a medical board. The PSD then proceeded to vote through 17 motions in 15 minutes.

segunda-feira, 14 de maio de 2012

Jardim's 'Summer University' disciple accused of swindle

The former chair of the Porto Santo Chamber of Commerce (ACIPS) is being accused of fraud. Castro resigned earlier this year, having headed the organization for the last eighteen years. 

Castro is a regular brown-nose in Jardim's 'Summer University'. During the summer holidays, Jardim gathers a coterie of heavy-duty sycophants (no lightweights), who trail him along the Porto Santo beach from his official residence to the University campus - otherwise known as the Bar do Henrique. The classes consist of taking cheap cracks at national politicians and the opposition, shouting revolutionary songs and slogans, shoveling in as much lobster and other seafood delicacies as possible and behaving like six year-olds. 

The bill for the merry gathering (the restaurant is taken over for the proceedings) is sent to a public  company (e.g. the Electricity company) -  or even better, to a private company that curries (or needs to curry) favor with the regime. At the end of the session, the merry men sing the University's anthem: 'There is only one leader, Jardim and none other! ' 
Castro is accused of swindling a company with regards to a European funding application. Since ACIPS did not have the money to co-fund the project in question, the private company allegedly paid ACIP's share, but were not repaid the amount when the funding eventually came through.

Castro had already been in the juridical limelight for his own companies having cost the region over 3 million Euros. The Government had guaranteed his company (why, no one knows!) and had to fork out the guarantees when things got messy.

Jardim's reign has been one big long party...

sexta-feira, 11 de maio de 2012

Unpaid expropriations in Ribeira Brava

Rafael Sousa, CDS-PP city councillor in Ribeira Brava challenged President Jardim to tell the population when he will pay for the expropriations of the land used for the new bridge at Ribeira da Fajã. Many owners have not been compensated for the land the government has expropriated and the councillor urged Jardim to make use of the inauguration ceremony to enlighten the owners.

Jardim reacts to Expresso through cartoon

'The Expresso is set against Madeira'...'Almost nobody here buys the main newspaper of the "termites"'

The Expresso is owned by Pinto Balsemão, former Portuguese Prime Minister and PSD leader.

The "termites" or "white ants" are a term Jardim uses to qualify those he also designates as 'undesirable', 'marginal', 'criminal' elements of the 'old soceity'. He often urges the population to 'erradicate' these undesirables and run them out of town.

Rui Fino, former deputy editor of the Jornal, purged in 2000 for complaining about the Government's constant control and interference of the newpspaper's editorial line, identified Jardim as being the author of the the cartoon's captions.

segunda-feira, 7 de maio de 2012

Jaime Ramos and the Hidden debt investigation

The  Expresso weekly reported that Jaime Ramos is business partner of two of the construction companies who are creditors of the Regional Government in the 1.1 billion of hidden debt.

As is well known, Jaime is chair of the Cimentos Europa, in which he owns a 22,5% stake. AFA, Tamega and Zagope are the other shareholders.

Jaime Ramos and his son, Avelino Faria (AFA) and Tamega are also equal shareholders in Ecoram, a waste-treatment company.

Jaime Ramos and son are 100% shareholders in the tarmac supply company AECP-Asfaltos, Emulsões e Combustíveis.

(Nobody knows who the owner of the AFA shares owned Offshore are)

AFA, Tamega and Zagope are on the list of hidden debt credit which is being investigated by the Central Investigation Department in the operation designated 'Cuba Livre'. The investigation is on whether members of the government hid the debt from the Bank of Portugal and the Institute of Statistics on Purpose, a crime punishable with a one year jail sentence (which will lead nowhere since it is not severe enough to oblige the lifting of their parliamentary immunity! - just like the election violations!).

According to the Court Auditors, some of the debt (in 2009) reported to construction projects completed in 2003, but not billed until 3 or 4 years later. The Government had made a secret deal with the constructors to pay them in installments up until 1914, but never reported the debts.

There seems to be an obvious collusion between Bertie, Ramos and his construction partners in hiding the debt to keep Bertie in power and ensure his program of public construction would continue to drive huge sums into their pockets.

We used to joke about the 'Cement Lobby', but in this case, there is no need for a lobby since they are directly represented in Government. 

Investigation 'Yellow Clover'

A small horticultural plant supplier in S. Vicente, in the North of Madeira, received over 3 million Euros from the Government for removing debris following the 20th February 2010 floods.

Although it had no license for this type of work, the government adjudicated the company 3,1 million Euros for helping in the clean-up operation. The companies profits rose from 2,7 thousand euros in 2009 to 1.589 million Euros in 2010. The company only changed its license, to enable it to carry out construction work etc, after it had received the government contracts.

The company received eight government contracts in all, for works all over the island. The Court Auditor's Report writes that the adjudication took place verbally on the very day of the floods. The Auditors drew attention to the fact that there is no register of the works having been followed by an inspector and the only  basis to verify the value of the bills is the information supplied by the company.

This is  one of the cases that the Public Prosecutor is investigating at the Secretariat of Public Works.

The requirement for public enders was waived due to this being an emergency situation. However, when the national Reconstruction Funding package for Madeira (known as the Lei de Meios) was put together, this rule continued, which meant that works done weeks and even months later were approved along the same lines. Worse, the amount of 1080 million finance package for reconstruction was based on a so-called survey of the damages incurred, which amounted to a single page of a seven page report. The reconstruction funding was a blank cheque for the Jardim Government to do as it pleased; reconstruction money was soon being diverted for new projects.

A quarter of the bailout goes to public companies

The Regional Government is loaning 259 million Euros of the bailout money to the bankrupt government-owned development societies: 96 million for the Western Development Society, 63,4 for the Metropolitan development society; 61 million for the Porto Santo Development Society, 22,8 million for the Northern Development Society and 15,2 for the Industrial Parks Society.

'Público' 4th May

domingo, 6 de maio de 2012

Jornal's veiled bomb threat to Journalists

The Jornal da Madeira issued a veiled bomb threat to the journalists Tolentino Nobrega of the Publico and Lilia Bernardes of the Lisbon Diário de Notícias.

The threat came in the anonymous daily cartoon Boca Pequena, which is often used by President Jardim to send messages promising retaliations, expropriations and inciting violence against particular targets. Once the threats have been carried out, they are complimented by a 'you had been warned message' in a follow-up cartoon.

In this cartoon, published on the 2nd of May, one character accused the two journalists of writing things against Madeira, the other replied that they would have to escape to the mainland 'after John's birthday'. The latter was the codeword for the FLAMA separatist terrorist movement's blowing up of the regional radio station in 1975.

The reference is common knowledge to all those who lived through this period, particularly to people such as Tolentino, who himself escaped a car bomb attack in those dark years of Jardim's rise to power.

quarta-feira, 2 de maio de 2012

Transparency, Debt and limit of Mandates

The Public Prosecutor's Office has denied it has found any new hole in the Madeira accounts, but does this invalidate the readings that the debt may now be over 8 billion? No, or rather, we simply don't know. It seems to be a simple game of semantics.

And why don't we know? Because there is no democratic system of check and control. The Parliament, does not function. The Government never goes there and on the rare occasions it does so, goes there on its own terms: it does not provide the requested information and allows no debate. It simply appears to make speeches. Last summer, for instance, the Secretary of Finances went to the Parliament to say the regional debt amounted to little over 1 billion; weeks later it had to admit that is was over 6 billion.

There is absolutely no transparency in the Madeira accounts and none of the State entities, Parliament, Justice System, Public Prosecutor's Office, function in way resembling those of a Democracy.

Why, is the President of the Government of the Autonomous Region of Madeira the ONLY elected post without a limit of mandates? Simply because the whole Democratic system has been screwed and manipulated to perpetuate the power and the abuse of power of one man - a man who cannot be held accountable to Parliament - or any other institution, for that matter - and who now spends his Sunday mornings preaching his theories to churchgoers in the churchyard after Sunday mass.

Many journalists and politicans absurdly refer to him as Europe's longest serving elected leader. There can be no comparison since no elected leader in Europe can serve for more than two or three terms in office ... and this rule is made precisely to prevent corruption and chronyism and so that noone can stay in power long enough to manipulate the whole system in his favour - to perpetuate himself in power (with abundant election violations from which he is imune from prosecution!).