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Posted by portugalpress on October 11, 2018

Accounts court judges have pulled the plug on what they call “the opaque” spending plan to upgrade SIRESP, the national emergency communications network that failed so dismally during last year’s wildfires, and which has periodically ‘failed’ ever since.

According to reports, the State has already spent over 463.5 million euros on SIRESP - the main shareholder of which is telecommunications company Altice.

Now, the executive has put forward an ‘addendum’ to upgrading the system that will cost another 15.65 million euros.

The Tribunal de Contas (TC) points out that “it’s odd” that a contract set up to conceive and run communications during situations of emergency “cannot assure the normal function of this network in exceptional conditions”.

“Doubts remain over justification for this addendum” and whether (in terms of expenditure from the public purse) the initial private-public contract signed in 2006 should not have been enough.

The bottom line is that judges wonder why SIRESP’s operator can’t guarantee a smooth-running emergency communications network … during emergencies.

“The whole story inherent in this process has been extremely opaque”, said the judges’ dispatch, citing procedural failings and a lack of clarity all round.

If solutions are indeed needed for when the system fails, how can the government be sure that the budget presented by SIRESP’s operator is even competitive, the judges continued.

TC’s veto has resulted in a terse joint press statement from the Finance Ministry and Ministry of Internal Administration, setting out all the reasons why the government decided to finance what it calls ‘redundancy solutions’ for SIRESP.

Everything it has done has been in the “strict defence of public interest to guarantee the safety of populations”.

Thus the SIRESP’s regulating entity - the government and Altice - is appealing the TC ruling, and as yet there is no information on who will hear the appeal, or how long it will take.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com

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