Portugal: analysing procurement proposals of parties manifestos (II)

I published on Friday the first entry in a series looking into the various electoral manifestos from the parties running in the upcoming Portuguese general election. Today it is the turn of Chega (ID) and Iniciativa Liberal (ALDE). They're both recent additions to the roster of parties with seats in parliament and came 3rd and 4th in the 2022 election.


Chega (ID)

For a party built around the rallying cry of elite corruption and 'cleaning Portugal up', their proposals on public procurement are…well, underdeveloped is a polite way to describe them. Proposal 405 on PPS/PFIs offers an increase in the monitoring of contract performance and to ensure said contracts are 'transparent, fair and benefiting both parties.' This is not a proposal but a mere ambition since we are not told what is wrong and how current practice should be changed. There is no substance here.

The party also has a proposal about ongoing or maintenance costs for public works (406). It is poorly drafted but the underlying idea is not wrong. Too often decisions to build/not build are based on budget availability for the construction without due attention to the ongoing costs associated with whatever is being built. Forcing these costs to be taken into account before a procurement is launched would at least make people think a little bit about the long term implications beyond the short term. If that would lead to an actual change in mentality, however, is very unlikely.

The next proposal suggests hiring local people to deliver public works and to "promote the development of local competences and capacity during the contract execution." Both ideas are blatantly illegal. The first one has echoes from Gordon Brown's infamous phrase "British jobs for British workers" and ignores free movement of workers and obviously national non-discrimination laws. The second is in line with the move to have a national train factory as desired by the leader of the Socialist Party when he was Infrastructure Minister. It is illegal for the same reasons the train factory was, since it is designed to discriminate either suppliers or goods that could come from other Member States.

Grade: 1/10

Iniciativa Liberal (ALDE)

Iniciativa Liberal only refers directly to public procurement in their manifesto in a context of defence procurement and budgetary planning. This can be explained due to a corruption case last year on defence procurement that led to the fall of one of the junior ministers in the government who is under investigation.

The party highlights that despite the Ministry of Defence having a budget, it has not been able to use it for procurement due to constraints imposed by the Finance Ministry on the actual disbursement. This is something I've already alluded to in my Friday entry.

As for actual procurement related proposes, the only thing they offer is the simplification of defence procurement rules. How and in what context we are left to guess but at least this is an area where there is indeed more flexibility to do so than others.

The party is proposing a grand return to PPP/PFIs as a way to improve public healthcare. I should start with a disclaimer of having worked as a lawyer on a couple during the tendering stage. I don't remember the exact model but I think it involved design, finance, build, operate (services) and transfer.

PPP/PFI are notoriously difficult to make work especially for the benefit of the public side, although the healthcare ones apparently worked well in Portugal (here and here) with the Audit Court concluding they provided savings to the public sector. It seems that for the healthcare sector they can be made to work at least in Portugal.

I am bit more concerned about their other suggestions for PPP deployment though. To solve the higher education housing crisis they suggest their use for student halls that could be built in public land. That approach is the albatross on the neck of many universities in the UK and will be the canary in the coal mine that will lead to bankruptcies  there. Invariably, operational risk will be left in public hands, either universities or state.

Grade: 3/10

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