Brieva prison. / Óscar Chamorro

Government seeks urgent contract to keep prisoners in Spain warm and fed this winter

Heating for the 47,000 inmates of Spanish prisons (excluding Catalonia and the Basque Country) is only guaranteed until 25 December, when the existing gas contract runs out

MELCHOR SÁIZ-PARDO MADRID.

The Spanish government is concerned that it will not be able to guarantee heating, hot water and kitchen facilities in the country’s 81 penitentiary centres this winter unless action is taken with immediate effect.

As a result, the prison service has now begun the process of putting to tender an urgent contract worth a record 23.7 million euros to supply gas to the 66 prisons, two psychiatric hospitals and 13 social integration centres for six months. This is much more expensive than the last contract of this type, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which was for 16.2 million euros for a full year.

There is also a possibility that no company will want the contract, because of the difficulties in setting a price for gas over a six month period.

What is certain, though, is that heating for the 47,000 inmates of Spanish prisons (with the exception of those in Catalonia and the Basque Country) is only guaranteed until 25 December, because the money assigned for the previous contract is running out faster than expected due to the rising energy prices.

Invasion of Ukraine changed everything

The Ministry of the Interior has had to change its procurement process in recent months. Before the Ukraine conflict, the authorities bought piped and liquified natural gas through framework agreements which gave them a certain power because they were able to set the conditions of contracts signed while those agreements were in force. However, the invasion of Ukraine changed everything and left the Ministry in a position of weakness with gas prices rocketing.

In August, after the first price hike, it had to issue an urgent contract to provide gas to the prisons for the period from 4 August to 3 January 2023. That five-month supply cost it 8.1 million euros, a record in the history of the Spanish penitentiary system. The contract was awarded on that occasion to Endesa Energía, but now a replacement needs to be organised as a matter of urgency and it will be at an even higher price.