Diego was bitten behind the ear by the fly on his walks, on trips to the supermarket and on trips from home to the station. “This has been a bit of kicking the street. I saw that many works were being carried out by Licuas. In Tres Cantos they almost never put up posters with the budget and the construction company, but I saw the staff and the fences and they were always awarded to this company,” he says . “Suspecting that I was receiving too many contracts, I went to the state’s contracting platform. And then I read in the press that it was associated with the illegal financing of the PP.”
OHL, Licuas, and Indra: three habitual of the summaries and the financing of the PP
Diego, a neighbor of the municipality who prefers not to give his real name, got down to work. He got together with another neighbor skilled in data processing and together they tracked not only the contracting platform – which includes information on tenders at the state, regional and local levels – but also the municipal transparency portal, which between 2015 and 2019 was out of date . “Some people demanded on Twitter that it be updated. At the beginning of 2020 the City Council did it, publishing the agreements, minor contracts and public tenders. Even so, we have detected anomalies: the contracts are published in PDF, they must be converted to excel one by one. one, clean duplicates … “, they report.
Tres Cantos is one of the ten municipalities with the highest income in Spain and one of the 47 Madrid city councils with an absolute majority of the PP. It handles an approximate annual budget of 50 million euros and is urbanistically resplendent, with the pavement always impeccable and the gardens very well cared for (as the opposition has sometimes criticized, “they do little maintenance and then they remodel everything to give more money to companies “). The mayor, Jesús Moreno García, has been in office since 2012, when he entered to replace José Folgado so that he, now deceased, would preside over Red Eléctrica. Then he won the 2015 and 2019 elections.
Licuas is an infrastructure, works and civil engineering company. One of its areas of activity are public concessions, specifically and as specified on its website, car parks, golf courses and marinas. It was one of the usual ones in the summaries and financing B of the PP: it appears both in the Gürtel sentence, as in the Bárcenas papers and in investigations framed in the Púnica Case. The Gürtel ruling considered it proven that Licuas was favored by irregular awards and that, in compensation, it paid inflated bills or for services not provided to companies in the network. The former mayor of Majadahonda Guillermo Ortega, the municipality in which the case originated, told in one of the trials that Álvaro Lapuerta (treasurer of the PP before Bárcenas) called him asking him to help Licuas “because they were people who collaborated with the house”.
The president of Licuas, Joaquín Molpeceres, was investigated in the Lezo case for an alleged treatment in favor of Ignacio González, former president of the Community of Madrid. The accusation was shelved. Molpeceres, who defines himself as a sports entrepreneur and presides over a golf club in Madrid, was also investigated for appearing in Bárcenas’ papers as a donor of 60,000 euros under the name Volpeceres. The businessman denied having contributed anything and, again, the piece was archived because no evidence found that donations were made in exchange for awards. Neither Licuas nor Molpeceres have responded to requests for information from elDiario.es.
The meticulous work of data from the neighbors, reviewed by this newspaper and audience for which you want to contrast it, confirmed his guesses. The percentage of works awards —both in number of contracts and in amount— that Licuas takes is much higher than that of other companies. Painted on a map, there are many streets renovated by the same company. The residents divided their study into two parts: the “major” contracts (in works, those over 40,000 euros) and the minor contracts, less than 40,000 euros. The smaller contracts are called ‘a finger’ contracts because they do not require competition.
Licuas takes 34% of the investment in works
In the period analyzed, from 2015 to 2021, Licuas was the main winner of large works contracts: it took 19 out of a total of 67 (some of those 67 had not yet been awarded at the time of preparing the database). The amount amounted to about 5 million euros, out of a total of 14.5 million invested in the category, which represents 34% of the investment. And this without taking into account the great contract for “maintenance, repair and reform of the pavements” of the entire city, a contract that is technically for services, not works, and that represents eight million euros for Licuas in four years, to ratio of two a year. If it were included, Licuas would have taken 13 of the 22 million invested in works in the period, 61% of the total.
This contract, whose technical specifications have been reviewed by elDiario.es, is designed to preserve the existing pavement (for example, if a hole is made or a tile needs to be changed), but it also includes certain new actions, such as ” creation of pedestrian crossings “,” new pavements and conditioning of medians and flowerbeds “,” replacement of urban furniture “, etc.
Already at the time the PSOE questioned that new infrastructures were included in a maintenance contract, because an investment would be charged as an expense. And the money to pay for one thing and another must come from different places: spending, from taxes paid by citizens; the investment, of another type of income (those that the Community gives you, those of patrimonial sales, etc.)
“The line seems very fine,” says Federico Mas, spokesman for Ganemos in the consistory. “It is not explained so much perseverance on the part of the Government with the same company. The law and norm are bordered to favor Licuas, without more.”
But he assures that the ease of hiring Licuas is something that the opposition “always” have watched. “But the contract law allows these practices. There is a public tender and it is usually won by Licuas. You cannot prohibit him from appearing.” Within the tenders, the next winner was Inesco SA, with 2.3 million and six contracts. And the next, Obras Caminos y Asfaltos SA, with 1.6 million.
More than a million in hand contracts
The situation within minor contracts or ‘to finger’ is not very different. In the period from 2015 to 2021, Licuas won more than 29 minor contracts totaling more than one million euros, out of a total of 6.8 million (14%). The next contractor is Urbalux, with 13 contracts and 342,800 euros (5%). “The law establishes that in each minor contract a budget is requested, it does not require three offers or three budgets. A technician requests it and is awarded directly. We not only work with Licuas, but also with other companies such as Urbalux”, says the councilor for Treasury, Javier Juárez. “In the face of works of less than 40,000 euros, we ask for offers from the companies we know because what we are looking for is agility.”
Among the contracts ‘to finger’ some sidewalk remodeling awarded to Licuas (according to Juárez, “new needs” that do not fall within the major maintenance contract) and different contracts to remodel very nearby streets, which could be considered subdivision, attract attention. (Split a large contract into several to be able to hand it out). Juárez denies the major. “They are different locations even if they are close, it is more than normal,” he tells this newspaper.
“It does not take us by surprise,” adds Silvia Lucena, spokesperson for the socialist group. “We know that Licuas is awarded numerous contracts, but we understand that if they go out to tender and the officials do the follow-up, it is correct. The Court of Auditors gave us a touch for minor over-hiring, although it was within the law. We believe that, if you want to make good use of public economic resources, you should ask for several budgets and adjust spending. For that you have to be proactive. Is it necessary to remodel streets? Licuas, your reference company “.
“It is not very normal. It is also true that there are companies within the Community of Madrid that seem to divide the territory”, says a person who worked in the City Council and who remembers the case of FCC, the other ‘owner’ of the municipality and in charge of managing a general plan. “The opposition may be more to the parrot to intervene in the specifications and see if they collect characteristics closely related to a specific company. The problem is that it involves extra work and, many times, it is not done.”