Public Ministry files investigation into Christmas lighting expenses in Franca, SP |  Ribeirão Preto and France

Public Ministry files investigation into Christmas lighting expenses in Franca, SP | Ribeirão Preto and France

The suspicion was that the purchase of materials would have been overpriced, but according to the prosecution no evidence was found.

In October of last year, the City Council passed a municipal law that authorized the City Hall to transfer an amount of R$ 960 thousand to the Commercial and Industrial Association (Acif) through a promotion term. The money comes from the Sports, Art and Culture Foundation (Feac).

The amount was destined, among other applications, to the ‘Natal da Esperança’ lighting project, in which various neighborhoods of the city received Christmas decorations. In addition to the quoted amount, the commercial entity would also invest another R$ 260 thousand of its own, of which approximately R$ 203 thousand were used.

Since the end of November, lights have graced important points in Franca, such as Nossa Senhora da Conceição, Barão, Carlos Pacheco and Bandeiras squares, the water tank on Avenida Abraão Brickmann, the roundabout on Avenida Miguel Sábio de Melo, the Colégio Champagnat and Sabino Loureiro Square.

Nonetheless, the inauguration of the lighting drew the attention of residents, mainly to the Christmas tree installed in the Center, which would have been reused from the 2020 decoration. On social media, the discussion caused controversy, and Acif confirmed that the material had been reused.

With the purchase of five new Christmas trees alone, the plan provided for an expense of R$ 150,000. The project also received criticism from the population because of the high cost in the face of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

In the face of controversy, Mayor Alexandre Ferreira (MDB) ordered the Internal Controllership of the City Hall to open a process to verify compliance between expenses and items used as described in the work plan presented by Acif.

Investigation through the Special Commission

A Special Commission on Relevant Matters (Cear) to inspect the use of public funds was installed by the councilors. Acif and the Chamber delivered a copy of the accounting documents for clarification of the facts, as well as the final report of the service prepared by Feac.

In the report, there was a description of the existence of failures in relation to the lighting of some Christmas trees regarding the operation and the uninstallation of the equipment, whose members of the Committee alerted the Association to the correction of pending issues, which were resolved.

In clarification, Acif reported that equipment failures contacted by the Commission were repaired immediately upon communication from members and that they occurred due to vandalism or a technical defect.

The Commission also carried out a comparison of the work in the city of Franca with other municipalities in order to obtain parameters about the value used for the installation of the Christmas decoration. At this stage, Acif delivered other documents of accountability to the municipality, which were approved with reservations.

In response, Acif also clarified that each city has its peculiarities and regionalism, therefore, the issue should be questioned due to the effective application of public money.

Through the rendering of accounts, the Commission concluded that of the approximately R$ 960 thousand made available by Feac to Acif, just over R$ 800 thousand were used, the rest being deposited in the municipality’s accounts in February 2022.

At end, the Commission found that Acif complied with the work plan and justified all the shortcomings pointed out. The accounting presented by the entity also went through the analysis of the control and inspection bodies of the municipality, which did not find any omission in the use of public funds, in addition to the unused money being returned to the municipality.

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