The building of the Vila Real de Santo António Town Hall (VRSA), the right of surface of the Sports Complex of this city and the Municipal Camping Park of Monte Gordo are at risk of being seized, due to the default of five loans contracted by the now extinct municipal company Sociedade de Gestão Urbana (SGU), between 2007 and 2009, in the amount of more than 32 million euros, revealed the municipality.
The risk of losing this heritage, that had already been denounced by the current municipal executive PS, in the Chamber since 2021, is now very real, after the execution of an attachment for non-compliance with obligations to the bank.
The three properties were given as collateral for the loans, which, over the years, relied on «a series of defaults removed with successive additions that aggravated the conditions initially contracted».
For Álvaro Araújo, mayor of Vilarrealense, the situation "represents a flagrant example of financial and asset mismanagement, susceptible of compromising the functioning of the municipality, its services and its assets".
Currently, «88% of the period since the contracting and use of these loans has elapsed, only 30% of the contracted amount has been settled, with 22,5 million euros still to be paid, a high amount that, due to its size, corresponds to 73% of current revenue collected by the City Council, in 2022».
«The issue is even more complex in that part of one of the loans, contracted in 2009, in the amount of 13,5 million euros, was intended for the construction of the 2nd phase of the Gimnodesportivo Pavilion, although the work never progressed. This loan originated, however, the mortgage of the Parque de Campismo de Monte Gordo, putting at risk one of the main municipal facilities, which also represents one of the main sources of revenue for the municipality», emphasizes Álvaro Araújo.
The city council executive is also concerned «with the loan for the acquisition of 40 housing units at controlled costs in Monte Gordo, since the fireworks were never received, although the money was received in 2008 and used».
"However the current executive's efforts to regularize municipal liabilities and recover the credibility of the City Council, the agreements for the transfer of the contractual position of the SGU (now extinct) to the Municipality are conditioned to prior inspection of the agreement and, cumulatively, to the approval of the revision of the Municipal Adjustment Plan that has not yet been obtained, a situation that negatively impacts on the resolution of all these inherited situations», explains the Chamber.
And it is not for lack of attempts that the situation remains unresolved, since the municipality guarantees that it has already promoted «several steps with the Court of Auditors in order to eliminate the weaknesses of the process initiated in 2019, but its complexity did not allow its completion”.
In 2022, the VRSA Chamber registered «the highest amount of revenue ever, 30.570.289 euros (5 million more than the second best year), «which allowed it, in addition to meeting its commitments, to carry out the highest amortization liability as usual, in a clear paradigm shift in the management of municipal accounts».
This allowed the municipality of Vila Real de Santo António to amortize 9.228.017 euros of debt at the end of 2022, thus contributing to the reduction of liabilities and to the cleaning up of the municipality's accounts.
«It is therefore imperative to understand, more than ever, how it is possible, in a municipality with only 20 inhabitants, to reach a liability of 180 million euros, six times more than allowed by law, and a whole set of shortcomings in almost all municipal infrastructure and equipment, without anyone being held accountable, nor is there any procedure in progress that determines the responsibility of that, or those, who took the Municipality to the point of financial rupture that it has reached», demands Álvaro Araújo.