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Have the sales of casinos been ditched again?

PLANS to privatise Tenerife’s three publicly-owned casinos appear to have been abandoned, following a change in the island’s Cabildo government.

The news was welcomed by the left-wing Podemos party and the Spanish General Worker’s Union (UGT), who have opposed the decision to sell Casino Playa de las Americas, Casino Santa Cruz de Tenerife, and Casino Puerto de la Cruz, since it was first announced.

“UGT Canarias regrets that the previous Government, led by Carlos Alonso, wasted time and public resources in pursuit of this privatisation agenda,” said Agustín Melián, Works Council President of Casinos de Tenerife.

María José Belda, head of Sí Podemos Canarias, also lauded the cancellation, saying: “It’s a victory and great news for the 150-plus Casinos de Tenerife employees (and their families), who can retain their jobs in a publicly-owned company which is, and will continue to be, extremely profitable.”

Early in September, Aarón Afonso, Island Director of Co-ordination, and Assistant to the Council President, revealed that just one company had made a bid for the casinos.

Last November, it had been reported that Global Casino Technology Corporation, Pama e Hijos, Olympic Entertainment Group and Automáticos Canarias-Grupo Orenes, had applied to tender for the properties. “The political decision needs to be taken, whether the divestiture continues or not,” said Afonso.

A week prior to this, it was confirmed that the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office had filed a complaint with Tenerife’s Senior Court, requesting an investigation of Gildo Hernández, Director of Casinos de Tenerife.

The prosecutor is, reportedly, looking to see if there is sufficient basis to make a charge of malfeasance (wrong-doing) and misappropriation of public funds.

The complaint makes reference to irregularities found in audits of the three casinos, from 2012 to 2014, along with certain, outstanding questions relating to the awarding of contracts to suppliers and other contractors, and the acquisition of assets, unrelated to the business.

It isn’t the first time these allegations have materialised. Podemos Councillor Julio Concepción filed a complaint previously with the Commission for Government Transparency in the Canary Islands, in protest at Tenerife Cabildo’s refusal to release documents regarding the casinos’ administration in July 2018.

“The failure to deliver the requested files obstructs an independent audit… and these documents are key to clarifying matters related to the ruinous management of Casinos Públicos de Tenerife,” he said.

Concepción also drew attention to what he characterised as serious anomalies in the venues’ accounts, revealed in the 2012 to 2014 audits. Describing them as “impermissible in public companies”, he argued that they had affected the financial management of the casinos negatively, and had also impacted on staffing.

In a similar vein, the UGT alleged that many unrelated public works had been charged to Casinos de Tenerife, explaining the company’s losses in recent years. “The casinos generate profits annually, and their privatisation is not justified under any circumstances,” argued the union.

Another key point of contention, for both Podemos and the UGT, was the asking price for the properties. “The Council previously put one of the casinos up for sale for €20m and now they’re selling three for €24m,” said Melián. The union commissioned its own financial report on the properties, valuing them at €43.7m.

Carlos Alonso, former Tenerife Cabildo President, was the chief architect of the sale, which marked the culmination of the regional government’s Plan for the Restructuring and Streamlining of the Public Enterprise Sector, first approved in March 2012.

However, a contentious change of government this July, which saw the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) under Pedro Martín Domínguez, take power in a coalition with the Ciudadanos party, put the sale plans under renewed scrutiny.

News that the Cabildo was prepared to take a fresh look at the sale plans met with strong criticism from the regionalist Canarian Coalition (CC) party at the start of September.

In a strongly-worded statement, the CC decried the decision as illogical, claiming it was simply intended to win the support of three Podemos councillors.

“We’ve previously warned that the Council was going to be held hostage by the far-left, and its populist politics,” the party asserted.

“It’s incongruous that the PSOE should decide to revisit the decision to sell the casinos, when they themselves formed part of it, given that they have participated in government for the past eight years.

“Taking this into account, it’s nonsensical that they should claim they are not in agreement with the decision, in light of the fact that they had already approved it.”

A previous proposal to privatise the island’s casinos was unveiled in May 2013, when Alonso was serving as Tourism Minister.

While the Cabildo moved forward with these plans in 2014, holding a licence tender for Casino Playa de Las Americas, the property failed to attract any bidders, and, similarly, the sale met with strong resistance from opposition politicians and union officials.

 

Short URL: http://www.canarianweekly.com/?p=50329

Posted by on Oct 11 2019. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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