What's the going rate for part of a nice, shiny cutlery service? €74,778.45

That's the price the Portuguese Foreign Ministry paid for part of a D. Joao V cutlery service to be used in State functions. The €74,778.45 contract was awarded via what we call in Portugal a "direct award procedure" to a cutlery firm based in Lisbon. I suspect this was done without any competition as there is no legal obligation for obtaining multiple quotes.

There are no prizes for you to guess why the contract is valued at a sliver below €75,000.00. According to the current Public Contracts Code (Art 20(1)), the direct award procedure can be freely used to award contracts up to...€75,000.00. It could be argued that only specific cutlery makers (?) have the artistic chops to do that and the "artistic" exception could probably have been used in this instance, but there is no indication it was.

By itself there is nothing illegal or irregular in this transaction...so far. But there may well be in the future. According to its clause 1, the contract was awarded for part of a cutlery service (knifes and scissors) and not the whole lot, I would not be surprised if we see another similar contract surfacing in the future for the remaining pieces, irrespective of awardee. If that happens, then this is a textbook example of contract subdivision, a practice banned by Article 8(3) of Directive 2004/18/EC.

A national TV station is claiming that the purchase was for the whole service and not simply for parts of it, so it may well be that two clerical mistakes were made. The first, when the contract was drafted, the second when the information was uploaded to the BASE database.

As for the timing of the purchase, it is quite common for entities to spend their remaining budgets right before the end of financial year and there is nothing illegal in that practice. Use it or lose it, as they say.