In Spain there are six major municipalities, the most powerful a priori, which exceed the half a million habitbefore. They are those that serve as reference … for the good and also the bad. But Court of Accounts (TCu) reproaches them in one of their latest control reports that abuse the use of so-called minor contracts, which is usually identified as «Risk area» by “not legally requiring the promotion of a minimum competitive attendance – state auditors warn – and substantially reducing their procedures”, including prior inspection.
Barcelona, Madrid, Malaga, Seville, Valencia and Zaragoza they are, according to the INE, the consistories of that municipal podium. And in them the number of minor contracts represents, on average, 87.3% of the total agreements signed, oscillating between 77.8% in the capital city and 96.8% in the main Levantine city. However, its weight with respect to the total budget of the award item is obviously smaller: 18.4% on average.
But what kind of documents are we talking about? Until the approval of the new Public Sector Contract Law, the contracts for works less than 50,000 euros or other services below 18,000. After the entry into force of said regulations in March 2018 (the TCu report refers to an earlier period), those caps have been reduced to 40,000 and 15,000 euros, respectively, although the autonomous communities could impose more restrictive limits. Likewise, this type of agreement cannot last more than one year, nor be extended.
And although in four of the six consistories analyzed (Madrid, Malaga, Seville and Zaragoza) the internal regulations favored that risks could be reduced by abusing this type of agreement, the Court of Auditors has set off the alarm about its use. And it is that “in all” the large municipalities have detected minor contracts through which «The development of actions has been awarded separately» which, in fact, were “necessary, repeated and predictable”, that is, just those that the regulations state should be awarded through ordinary agreements.
The same applies to “the realization of benefits of a similar nature that could respond to a single purpose”, another of the almost recurrent uses that large municipalities give to minor contracts and, however, the law indicates that they should be included in agreements of greater size and, therefore, with an important previous control. Especially when, as technicians have detected, its award “has sometimes fallen to the same contractor”, extreme that could be disguised by resorting to the distribution of works or services in smaller agreements.
«Avoid your advertising»
After all, as the Court of Auditors points out in its report, “on some occasions” the «Fractionation of benefits (contractual) sought to circumvent the advertising requirements and related to the legally applicable adjudication procedure ”, that is, it suggests that in such cases they would have practically skipped the law to hide information from certain agreements. And he makes that statement after having analyzed “the identity of the object” of these minor contracts, of “the proposing administrative unit” and also of the successful bidder.
The town halls of Barcelona -fundamentally-, Malaga and Valencia are the ones that appear most in that negative aspect. Already in general, state auditors also criticize that, despite including minor contracts in their transparency portals, the large consistories “did not include all the data required by legal regulations.” In addition, they detect “significant deficiencies in the internal systems of registration of contractual activity”.
For a year now, the new Independent Office for Regulation and Supervision of Contracts obliges the public administrations of the State to request, at least, three offers before awarding a minor contract. Even so, picaresque is abused: almost 10% of these agreements range between 14,900 and 14,999 euros to avoid greater control.