Edition 1450
18 November 2017
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Fire fund fiddle?

by Carrie-Marie Bratley, in News · 07-09-2017 12:17:00 · 2 Comments

Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has asked that the creators of funds for donations for the victims of the massive Pedrógão Grande fire explain to the country where that money is, and what is being done with it.

Fire fund fiddle?

This comes after councils in central Portugal raised concerns that funds for victims of the deadly forest fires, which struck the region this summer, have failed to reach their intended destinations, and, as newspaper i reported this week, amid strong suspicions that some of the donated funds may have been “diverted”.
The calamitous fire in Pedrógão Grande in June spread over three counties and took several days to extinguish, killing 64 people and causing around €200 million in losses.
President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said: “What must be explained to the Portuguese is that which has been explained to me: where the money came from, who is managing it, how, and how much.”
He also appealed that any “lapses, duplications or insufficiencies be
corrected.”
Valdemar Alves, mayor of Pedrógão Grande, in comments to i this week, said: “Dozens of accounts were opened in banks” for the donations to be made into, and stressed that the three councils affected by the massive fire and which the donations were meant for – Pedrógão Grande, Castanheira de Pêra and Figueiró dos Vinhos – “don’t know where that money is.”
Prime Minister António Costa admitted that the state only controls one fund, named the Revita fund, which stands at 1.9 million euros.
Estimates are that up to 14 million euros have been donated to the various funds created in the wake of the fire.
With controversy looming, the Prime Minister was forced to speak out. He guaranteed the rules employed by the state regarding the management of donations “are totally transparent”.
But, he stressed, the biggest part of donations were not gathered by the State.
As an example he highlighted a fund launched by national broadcaster RTP, saying “only RTP can explain what it has done with that money.”
The PSD social democratic party has also demanded further
clarifications.
“It is up to the government to fully explain to the Portuguese what these amounts are, where the remaining donations are, who is managing them and on what terms”, Teresa Morais told a press conference.
She said the party believes this situation “reveals a total lack of coordination and inability on the part of the government to manage private donations that it received through the creation of a fund.”
Newspaper Jornal de Notícias (JN) reported this week that millions of euros garnered through donation funds have yet to be distributed.
These include donations from Timor and bank BPI, according to a government list, JN said.
Reports claim that the three affected councils have asked the Public Prosecutor’s Office to launch an investigation into the situation and they will also be asking the Bank of Portugal to verify which entities opened accounts in the name of the Pedrógão fire victims, how much was deposited into them, and where the funds were channelled to.
In the Pedrógão Grande Mayor’s opinion, all donations should have been channelled into the Revita fund.
“We do not know the whereabouts of this money and there will have been accounts that were opened that we do not know about”, he argued, adding there are also fears that there has been a diversion of money from accounts opened abroad, which would be “harder to control.”
In the wake of these reports, Cáritas Portuguesa, Portugal’s leading Catholic charity, was quoted as saying by Lusa News Agency on Wednesday that it had received donations totalling almost €1.769 million in a dedicated bank account to support victims of the recent fires in central Portugal.
It pledged that the money is being used to help local residents affected by the fires.
In a statement issued by the charity’s president, Eugénio Fonseca, Cáritas said that the account at state bank Caixa Geral de Depósitos was opened on 17 June and that by Tuesday it contained €1,768,976.76.
Of that, €345,000 had come from eight diocesan Cáritas organisations and the national charity itself, while €917,000 was gathered by the Portuguese bishops’ conference in the form of donations on 2 July.
The announcement comes in the wake of what Cáritas notes are “suspicions raised by the mayors of Pedrógão Grande, Figueiró dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera” as to the way that various organisation are managing donations. It stressed that it did not “feel itself to be targeted” by these suspicions.
The statement notes that on 11 August, 100,000 left the account to help victims in the fires in the municipality of Mação, to be spent by the diocesan Cáritas in Portalegre-Castelo Branco.
It added that from 28 July a further €1.3 million “was earmarked” for the Coimbra diocesan Cáritas to “meet commitments made towards Revita.”
Meanwhile in related news, the national prison service has revealed it is working with the government on how to use prisoners in wildfire prevention.
The service said it was hoping to use convicts to clean forests and plant fire resistant vegetation.
Similar action has been employed in the past, with convicts used between 1996 and 2001 to assist in cleaning up forest areas frequently ravaged by wildfires.
Over 20,000 hectares of protected areas in Portugal have been destroyed by wildfires this year, including more than half of the Portas de Rodão Natural Monument and the Gardunha Mountain Range Protected Landscape, the Nature and Forest Conservation Institute (ICNF) said in a provisional report.
This year forest fires have burned a total of 213,000 hectares across the country, the highest figure in the last 10 years and more than double the annual average in the same period.

Comments

This problem is exactly the same with the EU funds.
Now with the local elections the dirty linen comes out. Money received for main infrastructures which nevrt been done.
I am certained if there is a will, there is a way to find out where the Money is.
No one seams interested to start an investigation.
The reputation of this country will be fully damaged mainly when there are families in very bad financial problems.
by Ana Paula Cabrita from Algarve on 09-09-2017 12:08:00
The day of the fire my brother Robert Connor got his arm burned very badly,and was treated in the Fiqeira das Vinhus Medical Centre for months after,and received treatment twice a week on his arm.The other damage was the garden all our shrubs and boader trees were burned and we had to have them all removed,and had new fencing around the property for privacy ,which we had before the fire we also have had vents replaced and a roundabout washing line replaced,we have not had that bill yet but we guess it must be around 3/4 thousand euros for these replacements needed.We would like some help with this bill which we will have to pay in the next couple of weeks.Kind Regards Mrs Jefcoate
by Kathleen Jefcoate from Other on 09-09-2017 09:10:00

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Edition 1450
18 November 2017
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Read this week's issue online exactly as it appears in print.

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