Tuesday, May 17

The Court of Accounts files Agbar’s complaint against Colau for the attempt to municipalize water

Agbar’s complaint against Ada Colau loses steam. The Court of Auditors has filed the part of the multinational’s complaint regarding the studies carried out by the council to municipalize water, which amounted to almost 900,000 euros, and will only keep open the accounting case for the grants from the Barcelona City Council to entities social services –although it does not specify what amount it is investigating– and for an aid of 15,000 euros to the promoters of the citizen consultation on the management of the service.

Agbar’s complaint last April was the latest episode of a water war that the multinational won after the Supreme Court frustrated in 2019 the municipalization of the service sought by the council. For Agbar, the technical and legal studies commissioned by the City Council in 2017 for the transition towards public water management in the city meant a “damage” to the public coffers since competition over the service is not municipal but of the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona (AMB).

The Court of Accounts, on the other hand, denies the greater and endorses the competence of the consistory to commission the studies. In a car, to which elDiario.es has had access, the account advisor Felipe García concludes that the Barcelona City Council has “full legitimacy” to propose a direct water management regime “at the Barcelona municipal level”.

Consequently, the Court of Auditors concludes that none of the studies commissioned by the consistory supposes “accounting or budgetary infraction” on the part of the mayor, Ada Colau, the councilor of Ecological Transition, Eloi Badia, the manager of the council and the controller municipal, all of them denounced by Agbar. “No damage is observed in municipal funds,” adds the order, which is actionable. The reports endorsed by the Court of Auditors had a total cost of 858,635.08 euros.

The City Council has celebrated the decision of the Court of Accounts because it supposes an outright rejection of half of Agbar’s claims. In other words, the supervisory body sees no need to even investigate part of the complaint. However, the Court of Auditors will keep an accounting case open for a subsidy of 15,000 euros and subsidies to social entities that are also the subject of proceedings by the Barcelona Public Prosecutor’s Office. Unlike the recent resolution on the procés, the case on municipal subsidies of the Court of Auditors is in a very initial state and is far from being completed.

The City Council sees a “first setback” to Agbar

“The Court of Accounts establishes in a clear and forceful way that the Barcelona City Council has powers over the municipalization of water and reinforces the line of work in recent years”, asserts the Councilor for Citizenship Rights of Barcelona, ​​Marc Serra, who sees in the resolution of the accounting entity a “first setback” to Agbar.

The council also trusts that the rest of the accounting responsibilities that the multinational attributes to the mayor will be discarded in the investigation phase since they are justified subsidies. The complaint does not figure out the specific damage of the subsidies, but rather considers that they will be a detriment to the public coffers “all those subsidies that have not had a tangible result that can justify the exponential and manifestly disproportionate increase in their financing.”

In its order, the Court of Auditors advocates investigating whether the “increase in funding” to social entities could have led to a violation of budgetary regulations by appreciating “signs of accounting responsibility.” Agbar emphasized that, during the CiU mandate in Barcelona, ​​Enginyers sense Fronteres received grants amounting to 271,437 euros – which were not investigated – while between 2016 and 2018, with Colau as first councilor, they amounted to 852,633 euros.

The subsidies that the council has awarded to social entities such as the PAH are also part of the investigation of the Barcelona Public Prosecutor’s Office as a result of the complaint by the Catalan Lawyers Association for the Constitution, an entity linked to the Catalan Civil Society and chaired by Ramón de Veciana , UPyD candidate for the presidency of the Generalitat in 2015. To this day the Prosecutor’s Office keeps its proceedings open – something usual after receiving a complaint from an individual – and is still studying the matter before deciding whether to file the complaint or send a complaint to the court.