Border Protective Obstacles Maintenance Contracts to Be Awarded by Direct Negotiations, Parliament Resolves
Sofia, February 28 (BTA) - Contracts for activities related to the construction of border protective obstacles were excluded from the scope of the Public Procurement Act, under a supplement to the law, passed on first reading on Wednesday. The bill was moved by GERB and the United Patriots. The vote was 103 in favour (GERB and United Patriots), 65 against (BSP for Bulgaria and Movement for Rights and Freedoms) and 4 abstentions (Volya).
The idea of the revision is to ease the process of maintaining the facility (a fence along Bulgaria's border with Turkey intended to deter the migrant flow) and the remedying of breaches caused by natural disasters or human impact.
The temporary protective obstacle along the border was designated a strategic installation by a Council of Ministers decree in 2017, and its operation is part of the international border protection and security system.
Only the Socialists objected to the bill, arguing that it makes possible enormous abuses and corruption. "The existing law makes an express provision which enables quick repairs even now, but you want to shift the responsibility from the Council of Ministers to the regional governors and use them as scapegoats," Kroum Zarkov MP of BSP for Bulgaria said, addressing the ruling majority.
National Assembly Legal Affairs Committee Chairman Danail Kirilov MP of GERB, who is among the sponsors of the bill, accused his colleagues of the opposition of abusing the truth because all three regional governors concerned were present at the three-hour debate at the Committee and they convinced the MP that the motion makes sense.
Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov of the United Patriots stressed that the majority wants to correct the mistake because appeals against public procurement awards is time consuming, while the border fence is constantly impacted by the natural elements and by human encroachment.
"There has been no refugee pressure over the last month, nor have any cattle infections crossed the border, but trees have fallen in some places and launching a public procurement procedure would be insane. I urge you to back this supplement," Simeonov said, addressing the chamber. He noted that the 160 million euro provided to Bulgaria by the European Commission for installing surveillance cameras along the border have not yet been absorbed because the award follows the standard procedure and is blocked by appeals. "Ten months have passed since the fence was finished, the companies have repaired the breaches of their own accord, and regional governors should be enabled to respond quickly within the law," the Deputy PM argued.
He dispelled suspicions that the supplement opens the way for corrupt practices.
Socialist MP Filip Popov insisted that the bill lacks an impact assessment and does not contain financial parameters, and the revision is rushed.