Quite how the Orihuela Council will get out of the mess that the tender for the maintenance of the Orihuela Costa parks and gardens has become is very much a mystery. After six years of providing the service without a contract and covering barely 40% of the coastal gardens, the tender promoted by Ciudadanos in the previous government has become a crossroads of accusations between municipal staff and councillors about alleged coercion and private interests.
The government now wants to put a stop to the issue and the way to turn the page is, to say the least, imaginative: awarding the municipal company Ildo with the management of the service.
This is undoubtedly a risky decision, but it would allow the service to be provided in the medium term with certain guarantees.
The problem is that, in parallel, a new problem could arise: that of compensation. Three companies, STV-Evocivil, Actúa and Doalco-AVV, all submitted their tenders and they have now been waiting since March for the council to make a decision. However, with this solution, they could each take the council to court for ignoring legislative procedure.
This did happen once before, in 2012, after the scandals involving the businessman Ángel Fenoll in the Brugal case, the waste contract was put out to tender, Urbaser was considered the best but, later, ‘in extremis’, it was decided to municipalise and take over direct management of the service. The company won the battle in court and the City Council had to compensate them with 4.4 million euros as ‘lost profits’.
In the case of parks and gardens it is similar, although with its nuances. Problems arose almost from the beginning. The Contracting Board requested a joint assessment report from experts. Two of them refused, citing different reasons, and the third (who just happened to be the individual who wrote specifications) decided to issue his own report. The result of this study was that the joint venture formed by STV and Evocivil was the best valued, far superior to its two direct competitors.
With all this, it is not unreasonable to think that any award, in one direction or another, would be followed by a cascade of appeals between companies that would continue to delay the resolution of the award.