The director of Feria Valencia, Enrique Soto, lamented the “image disaster” that the site has had to face in recent years and has related both to the “generalized” crisis of fair institutions in Spain and to the “distrust” of companies and exhibitors. “Like other buildings of the city, we have gone from being the symbol of an economic success, of a good time, to the contrary, to be a symbol of waste and excess,” he said.
Soto, who entered as director of the Fair in February 2012, has assured this Thursday in the commission of investigation in the Corts that the activity of the enclosure has been maintained “with dignity” after a strategy that considers “erroneous” and “delayed” by part of the previous address to deal with the crisis.
When he took office, he said he could not “look in the rearview” because he found “serious problems” economic and financial that “threatened the viability” of Feria. In his opinion, they were generated as a result of “certain distrust of the administrations that makes the Fair abandoned to its fate and suffer a problem of reputation and image”.
“What happened to us all happened, the fairs depend a lot on the national market, in a sort of vicious circle there are fewer exhibitors and this goes against the event,” he illustrated.
Faced with this scenario, the holder of the Fair has assured that the previous address “opted for a strategy that time has shown lethal”, with “more promotional expenses to revive the contests”, despite the “very important drop in income, a record turnover in 2008 of 60 million euros, to losses as I had never known in 2009 “.
However, he acknowledged that at that time “no one could know what the intensity of the crisis was going to be” and explained that, although in the first years “it was covered with the remnant of previous years,” in 2012 ” there was money left. ” Therefore, it had to “resort to loans and bank financing guaranteed by the Generalitat”, with the consequent “problems to pay suppliers and payrolls”- payday in advance for loans.
Since then, Soto has detailed that the management agreed a 20% drop in wages, tried to “avoid an ERE” -in 2014 that affected 72 people, although “it only extinguished four contracts” -, and reduced by 4, 3 million contracts with external companies, in addition to fixing the contracting “as much as possible” to public regulations. In the matter of diets, it was agreed that the holders “do without official cars and Visa cards because they made a residual expense” and eliminated the payment of 150 euros for attending committees.
“DRAMA” A ROOT OF COMPLAINTS AND INVESTIGATIONS
For the director of Fair, this “image disaster” is aggravated by the fiscal and judicial processes that have had to face the site: “In four years, a complaint filed against the previous management, a control of the Intervention General that ended in a devastating report, two years of exhaustive investigation of the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office -which he filed in December 2016- and this commission “.
“Any of these circumstances, only one, would be a considerable tragedy for any organization. Pretending that this does not impact our reputation and image is impossible,” he said.
In addition, Soto recalled the restructuring begun in the institution after it has “questioned the historical nature of private,” although he stressed that the current leadership has had “never” pretense of “stuck in the defense of public or private nature ” This is something he has advocated to solve through the separation of financing and debt in the public sphere and trade fair activity.
EXTENSION “ANCHORED” AND NECESSARYEXTENSION “ANCHORED” AND NECESSARY
While, according to him, the reputational crisis in Feria “occurs because the public administration had to face -in 2009- the payments for the expansion work” started seven years earlier, something that he believes “has its logic in a moment of scarce public resources “and that” generates anxiety in the administrations and even distrust towards our raison d’être “.
Asked about this project, which reached a budget of 1,027 million euros with an extra cost of 86%, according to Intervention, the owner of the site, who does not know “what he would have done” as a politician and recognizes the difficulty of saying “a bull past” , has ensured that they were “very much desired” works so that Feria would not remain “inferior to its competitors” such as Ifema in Madrid or the Fira de Barcelona. “Another thing is that you need that extension or that it was excessive,” he pointed out.
Regarding the extra cost of the works, he stressed that “of course” is not reasonable and that he does not know both the Intervention report and the assessment of the Office of the Prosecutor, so he has also been waiting to assess the contracting of works to companies that “they have declared that they financed the PP irregularly”, as the socialist José Muñoz recalled in his speech.
“COMMON FUND” FOR TRAVEL
On the other hand, questioned about the expenses included in the Intervention report -22.4 million euros in travel and 1.8 in per diems, according to the PSOE-, Soto explained that “in 12 years, all the expenses of promotion and marketing actions of Feria Valencia “and that it is” a common fund to bring visitors, not staff “.
On the possibility that the address has opaque cards, has ensured that those used by the directors “are not ‘black'” to facilitate the expenses with “absolute detail.” “They are expenses of another time, if there are problems, others will have to determine it because it would be reckless on my part”, he underlined. He also assured that “never” has received political pressure and has recognized the existence of “certain conflict” in judicialized contracts.
Asked about the amount that the PP owes to Feria Valencia for the celebration of its national congress in the precinct in 2008 -where Mariano Rajoy rose as a candidate-, Soto has estimated it at 587,000 euros and has denied that the cession of land was the free character “as somewhere has been defended”.
In addition, he acknowledged that there was no contract to facilitate the transfer of space, but a draft, although he stressed that “normally” is usually formalized and cannot “answer on links with previous managers of the PP”, as well as ignores whether In this Congress there were invitations to meals for 4,500 euros.
RECLAIM POLITICAL CONSENSUS
For the future of Fair, its director has insisted on the importance of consensus, so he has asked the groups in the Corts “reach a great agreement” on the decree that will go through the camera.
The objective of the management is to overcome 20% of occupation,
access to new markets “and take advantage of its” enormous growth potential “, with 80% of its own events turnover as Cevisama”, some 60 fairs a year and “benefits for the first time in a long time” at the end of 2016.
“In the end, the Fair is for everyone, unlike in recent years, when it seems that it has not been anyone,” he lamented, to urge again to “turn the page.”