Tuesday, March 01, 2016

The Problems With Mallorca's Senior Officials

They get themselves into a right old tangle in Mallorca with their "altos cargos" - senior officials appointed through a political process. These officials can be, variously and as examples, director-generals of departments within regional government ministries, directors of companies that are owned by government authorities or directors of foundations that have as their trustees and governing bodies representation from political parties.

During the period of the current administration - since late June last year, therefore - controversy surrounding senior officials has rarely been far away. The greatest controversy concerned the appointment of Juli Fuster. He is the director-general of the IB-Salut health service. His wife, it just so happens, is the health minister. The Fuster affair has now been put to bed, but other appointments keep surfacing and keep causing problems.

Early in February, the selection committee for the Pilar and Joan Miró Foundation approved the appointment of Francisco Copado as the foundation's new director. The selection committee has its experts in such matters. It also has its political representatives. The trustees and governing committee for the foundation have as their president the mayor of Palma. The vice-president is Palma's councillor for culture. There are other town hall representatives, some from other parties, as well as members away from the town hall, such as the grandson of Joan Miró.

Ever since the appointment was made, questions have been asked about Copado's qualifications for the post. He himself was interviewed by the press and sought to downplay his absence of management experience of running a museum or similar. This is meant to be a requirement for the job. Copado has a relevant degree and masters and knowledge of the arts and cultural worlds and also several languages. It was seemingly the latter which swayed the selection committee in his favour, but the Partido Popular's Javier Bonet, a member of the governing committee, has questioned not just the appointment but also its legality. He has suggested it might be a case of "prevaricación", that difficult word in Spanish which, in legal terms, can be interpreted as, for instance, abuse of power in public office.

A special meeting of the trustees' board is to be held to consider the affair. One feels that Bonet is overstating things. He had earlier challenged the appointment by reminding the councillor for culture, Miquel Perelló, that he (Perelló) had told the media that none of the candidates for the advertised position met all its requirements. Rather than some political motives, it would seem that Copado was felt to have been the best available. As such, one has some sympathy for him, as he's hardly been out of the media glare since he was appointed.

This may have been a tricky appointment but at least it was one made via what seems to have been a normal recruitment process. The same cannot be said of the new director-general of the Balearic Tourism Agency (ATB). Copado isn't a political appointee (or doesn't appear to be). Pere Muñoz, however, is.

The ATB is the tourism ministry's marketing and promotion department. Last September, Miquel Àngel Roig was made director-general of the agency. He resigned last month, having spent roughly the same length of time in his post as the now former director of the Palacio de Congresos company had. (That company is run by the regional government and the town hall.) Both departed citing personal reasons. Josep Sintes has since gone on record in identifying major disagreements he had with the Palacio board, especially its president, the town hall's tourism councillor, Joana Maria Adrover. Roig has said nothing. Apparently he was made a good offer to return to Hotelbeds, for whom he had worked before being appointed ATB director-general.

Roig was, therefore, someone with a tourism background. Muñoz's background, on the other hand, is more questionable in this regard. One particularly disparaging review of his experience suggests that it is limited to having managed the accommodation and car park at Lluc Monastery. He is currently disentangling his business interests in order to take up the appointment, and one of these interests is with a Catalonian company involved in tourism operations. But crucially, he is an old associate of Biel Barceló, the tourism minister. They were in fact at one point rivals within the PSM (Mallorcan socialists). He hasn't had frontline political experience for some years but he has now returned to the frontline, because his appointment is political.

It is said that Barceló had considered him for the position before appointing Roig but decided not to because of the fuss with other political appointments. Now, though, Barceló seems to believe it's safe to appoint him. Sources other than Barceló in Més and close to the government are understood not to have much faith in Muñoz. One fancies that there may be another parliamentary row over a senior official appointment brewing.

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