Court of Auditors points out lack of control of public works data in the Base Portal

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The Court of Auditors (TdC) concluded, in an audit on the undertaking of public works in Portugal, that there is “lack of appropriate control of the reliability of public information recorded in the Base Portal”, pointing out several deficiencies.

In the audit report, the TdC highlighted that this lack of control distorts “the excellence of the purpose of its creation”, harming “its essential function”, indicating errors in prices, problems in dates and lack of information on the financial execution of ongoing contracts.

The court based its audit on a file taken from the Base Portal on 11/10/2022, with “data on 1,014 public contracts from 330 contracting entities, with an overall contract value of €6,938 million,” and information from 2018.

The TdC’s general review starts by pointing out the “need to separate the TIN from the designation of the contracting entity (and contractor), in order to determine the respective universe of entities, due to the existence of different wordings for the designation of the same entity.

The court also pointed out that “only 63 of the 1,014 contracts had a closing date (and five of them for default),” and “the information on each contract (detail) shows dates of 2 operations (conclusion and closing), but only 1 date of publication (without identifying the information recorded on this date).

The TdC found, in its analysis, “5 contracts with publication dates that were earlier (between 100 and 312 days) than their signing dates and these, nevertheless, were recorded in the same detail, which is inconsistent.

In parallel, “in 62 of the 63 closed contracts, the publication dates are prior to the respective closing dates and these, nevertheless, are recorded in the same detail, which is also inconsistent,” highlighted the TdC.

The TdC also detected in its analysis that “the highest effective total price (3,778.1 million euros) was manifestly wrong, not only because of the size of its absolute value, but also because it exceeded the contractual price (3.5 million euros) by more than a thousand times.

The fact that the information was “admitted with an error of this magnitude is a very serious flaw” that “seriously jeopardizes the reliability of the information registered in the Base Portal and reveals the inefficiency of its control system to detect and correct it in a timely manner”.

From the analysis of the data, the TdC also concluded that “58 contracts with a closing date and reporting of full compliance record periods between the date of conclusion and closing date that exceed, on average, the respective contractual deadlines by 478 days, between a minimum of 78 days and a maximum of 987 days, showing a generalized slippage of these deadlines.

According to the entity, there is also “a risk that part of the chronological information is unreliable or outdated”, highlighting also that, in the Base Portal “there is no public information about the financial execution of ongoing contracts (with annual frequency, at least), but only after its closure”.

The TdC recommended to the Government, to the managing entity of the Base Portal (Institute of Public Markets, Real Estate and Construction) and to the contracting entities it highlighted in this analysis (Metropolitano de Lisboa and Infraestruturas de Portugal) that they correct the deficiencies it detected.

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