The new committee of inquiry in Portugal’s parliament of state bank Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD) has this week begun work with a view to, over the next four months, examining the Socialist government’s handling of the appointment and dismissal of members of the management board that was in place for five months last year.
The committee is to be chaired by a member of the opposition Social Democratic Party (PSD), José Pedro Aguiar-Branco.
There is already one committee of inquiry in operation that was set up in the last parliament, and which is looking at the management of CGD since 2000 and into the reasons that the bank needed a massive capital injection.
This focus was cited by parties on the left to dismiss some requests by the PSD and its former coalition partner, the People’s Party (PP), for certain hearings and requests for information. As a result, the two parties submitted a request to set up a new committee focussing on the way the current government has handled the appointment and dismissal of the board led by António Domingues.
In their grounds for setting up the new committee, the deputies did not refer directly to the exchange of text messages between Domingues and the minister of finance, Mário Centeno, which has been the focus of the political debate on the affair.
However, one of the central goals of the committee - as outlined in the written request - is to find out whether “it is true or not that the minister negotiated” with Domingues on whether he would have to declare his past income, and that they agreed that he would not. This has been denied by Centeno.
PSD and PP have asked that the new committee “functions in the shortest period possible” - no more than 120 days.
In an interview with Lusa News Agency at the start of this week, Aguiar-Branco said that he would do everything he could to ensure that its proceedings are dignified and that it is not just “the committee on the SMS messages”.
Domingues took up the post of chairman of CGD on 31 August last year, having been first approached by Centeno in March, according to the minister.
He submitted his resignation on 27 November, following months of controversy over the conditions of his appointment. Centeno described the announcement as “a shock” but a replacement was soon found in the shape of Paulo Macedo, a minister in the previous government.