Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pepe And The Banshees: Pollensa

The voice has been one of a one-man banshee howl at nepotism, inefficiency and the opaque. Yet the image, one that may have come across through the media, is quite misplaced. For starters, it is more than one man and indeed woman. It is also no deranged spirit, wailing at the prospect of death in the house; more mild-mannered Clark Kent, but with a legitimate fear of death of a resort and town.

This is Pepe Garcia. He is, his party is the Alternative. For Pollensa. The scourge of Pollensa's town hall, something of the pin-up boy for those in a municipality who wear Pollensa's badge of dishonour with a perverse pride. This is the worst town, or worst town hall, in Mallorca. It's not something to be proud of, but pride has to be sought somehow.

There are doubtless other towns in Mallorca which would wish to lay claim to the worst crown, but none has been as unremitting in its pursuit as Pollensa has, and none has the same highly vocal banshee cries emanating from it, as those which Garcia emits.

What Garcia has achieved, and it is no small achievement, is to strip away and expose what many either know or suspect. He has gone for the throat and no longer is there any illusion that contracts and services have been variously dubious, uncompetitive or the result of nepotism. Gardens, street lighting and cleaning, transport plans. All have been targets and all have been revealed for what they have been. The workings of the town hall are out in the open, much as it, like other town halls, would prefer that they remained inside and closed.

Transparency is one of the Alternative's demands and one of its election promises. The lack of transparency, which is largely endemic to most town halls, has a collusive basis. When the Alternative pressed for a motion requiring the institution of greater transparency, it was rejected. More than this, it failed to receive support from other opposition parties, such as the Partido Popular, which abstained. Why would other parties not support this? You'd better ask them.

The lack of transparency, the lack of information make a true assessment of what is generally considered to be the parlous state of Pollensa's finances (a state it shares with other towns) nigh on impossible. The hole in the finances could be considerably deeper than is admitted. It is a hole into which, for example, has been thrown the salaries of not one, not two but six full-time councillors, including one for fiestas. Why does any town need someone working full time on fiestas? The answer is that it doesn't

The spend on fiestas is something which I have questioned in the past. The amount that goes up in smoke alone is far from insignificant. No one wants to lose the essence of fiestas, but are exercises such as cost-benefit analyses ever performed which might, or might not show what they bring in terms of return?

What has generally happened, with all sorts of spend on all sorts of contracts, services and events is that no one has sought to seriously question them, to seriously dig for answers, except the Alternative. In Pollensa, some of the worst-offending contracts (and not all contracts were ever actually contracts) pre-date even the benighted administration of the current mayor. Yet, prominent town hall figures, of whom some are seeking selection as mayor this time round, raised nary a quibble. It is for this reason that the air of collusion exists, the nod and a wink of that's how things are done, the acceptance of opacity over transparency.

And behind all this, there exists something else. The local system. Garcia has a problem, in the unlikely event that he were to wish to break into the tight-knit network of contracts being granted. He is not from Pollensa. It makes his voice independent, but all the more liable to be harangued as the shrill cry of an outsider.

One can't speak for every town or village in Mallorca, but the case of Pollensa surely has echoes elsewhere. They are those which reverberate with the same accusations, largely substantiated, that have come from Pollensa. Those of nepotism and a lack of transparency, which, in turn, lead to inefficiencies, exacerbated by systems of inadequate control.

All the main parties will do their schmoozing, all will offer their words which are ultimately vacuous. Some, and some mayoral candidates and others in different towns of Mallorca, may be genuine. But you can look at Pollensa and wonder.

Any comments to please.

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