The financial controller or “Interventor” of Gran Canaria’s south western municipality of Mogán, an auditor who is responsible for overseeing and ensuring the legality and proper financial management of public funds in a governmental or municipal context, is now closely examining all minor contracts entered into by the town hall during the last mandate, between 2019 and 2022. The municipal official has initiated a supervisory action to investigate, among other things, the volume of direct awards and the “degree of compliance with legal requirements.”
In a document, which has been seen by CanariasAhora, Mogán’s Interventor has requested all the managing bodies of the Town Hall to provide a list of minor contracts signed in the last three years. The goal is to prepare a report that will help verify “the most notable and frequent deficiencies or irregularities that may be occurring” and “offer a comprehensive and representative view” of the processing of these types of files by the government led by the still serving Alcaldesa O. Bueno, who heads up the Juntos por Mogán party, an ally of Coalición Canaria (CC) with which she ran in the regional elections held last May 28th as their third candidate for Gran Canaria.
Some of these alleged irregularities in the processing of minor contracts are being investigated in the courts. The mayor is facing various charges in at least two of the judicial procedures under which she is already being investigated, for hand-picked awarding of contracts. Her second-in-command, Mencey Navarro, is already set to go to trial in another procedure for the same reason.
The law establishes certain limitations for minor contracts. Service and supply contracts cannot exceed €15,000. For construction contracts, the threshold is set at €40,000. They also cannot last more than one year or be linked together or be the result of splitting a larger contract in order to avoid the administration’s obligation to put such work out for tender. The contracting authority must justify that it is not altering the purpose of the contract in order to award it directly.
Controls on minor contracts are more lenient. They are not subject to any prior scrutiny, and only require checking that there is sufficient budgetary credit to cover the expense. However, the Law Regulating Local Treasuries also allows for the possibility that the public auditing department responsible for the legality of these contracts can make any necessary observations at the time of withholding credit and paying the bill.
Furthermore, the same law includes in its third section of Article 219 “full subsequent scrutiny,” which is the action now being initiated by Mogán’s Interventor to verify “the degree of compliance with legality in credit management.”
In a circular sent to different municipal services, the senior official states that he will analyse the volume represented by minor contracts in relation to the total awards in the Mogán Town Hall and “whether the files met the conditions and legal requirements for this type of award.” With this, the Interventor adds, “we can become aware of the most notable and frequent deficiencies and irregularities that may be occurring, and finally, make recommendations to help improve the administrative management of this type of procedure in the future.”
In April of last year, the Las Palmas Prosecutor’s Office filed a complaint against Bueno the mayor of Mogán, for fragmented contracts and direct awards (without any open procedure) to two communication sector companies, Etiazul and 21 Bombillas, for the provision of press, promotion, and advertising services for the Town Hall and the operation of local media, including Radio Television Mogán.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office has detected signs of prevarication (dishonesty) in these awards: “Not only is the existence of irregularities in the administrative contracts signed undeniable, but they blatantly violated the requirements stipulated by law for this type of contract, thus arbitrarily benefiting the two entities involved.” These companies were run by two brothers, media profesionals Pedro and Gregorio Guerra, who received over €230,000 from the Mogán public treasury over these last three years through twelve minor contracts and a tender.
This is not the only procedure in which the mayor is being investigated for these types of minor contracts. She also remains charged in the Court of Instruction 1 of San Bartolomé de Tirajana in one of the separate pieces into which the original case against her was divided, regarding accusations of election-rigging and an alleged vote-buying conspiracy in the 2015 and 2019 municipal elections (the original case having to be ultimately dismissed on a technicality due to the statute of limitations, because too much time had passed since the alleged crimes in 2015 and there was a lack of new evidence of a continuing crime in 2019). Specifically, this case is investigating contracts awarded to the family company of Rayco Guerra, who was then the mayor’s advisor in the southern corporation and is now a town councillor, and to the architect Jesús Romero-Espeja, who had also served as Director General of Urban Planning and Deputy Secretary of Territorial Policy in two Coalición Canaria governments.
Mencey Navarro, Councilor for Urban Planning, Tourism Promotion, and Security, is also involved in a judicial case regarding minor contracts awarded to his former law firm partner. In this procedure, he is no longer considered a suspect but has been processed after the judge transformed the preliminary proceedings into a shortened procedure, the step before the trial, and the Public Prosecutor’s Office is yet to file charges in this case.