Opposition Socialists Object to Motorway Construction Award without Public Procurement Procedure

Opposition Socialists Object to Motorway Construction Award without Public Procurement Procedure


Opposition Socialists Object
to Motorway Construction Award
without Public Procurement Procedure

Sofia, January 14 (BTA) - Elena Yoncheva, Georgi Svilenski and other MPs of the opposition BSP for Bulgaria Monday approached the Road Infrastructure Agency (RIA) with a formal request to be provided with a contract between the Agency and the State-owned company Avtomagistrali for the construction of a part of the Hemus Motorway. The Socialists also asked the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works for the framework agreements between Avtomagistrali and the companies that will be building the separate lots of the project.

The contract in question was concluded in late December 2018 and concerns the construction of 134.14 km of the Motorway between the Boaza road junction and the crossing of Hemus with the Rousse-Veliko Turnovo road, the RIA said in a press release on Monday. The contract was signed without a public procurement procedure after a positive opinion received from the Public Procurement Agency (PPA). The contract will be sent to the PPA for its information within the statutory time limit of one month. The project is financed with 1,124,880,000 leva from the budget surplus, allocated by the Government in December. No payments have been made so far. The stretch is divided into six lots. The idea is to finish by 2023 the entire Sofia-Veliko Turnovo part of the 420 km motorway linking Sofia and Varna. At present, the sections between Sofia and Yablanitsa and between Belokopitovo and Varna, aggregating nearly 170 km, are in use, and three stretches totalling 51 km are under construction.

Yoncheva argued that there are "reasonable doubts" that State-owned Avtomagistrali is used as a "black box" for the redistribution of billions of leva, "which is unprecedented in modern Bulgaria". She insisted that the company "lacks the capacity to build the Hemus Motorway. Its financial results for 2017 deteriorated." The opposition MP recalled that the then RIA Director Svetoslav Glosov said on October 10, 2018 that public procurement procedures for the Hemus Motorway construction would be launched by the end of 2018, but shortly after that the construction was awarded to companies without any competitive bidding.

"We also want to see the pricing method, the prices at which the RIA awards to Avtomagistrali and Avtomagistrali subcontracts, so that all Bulgarian citizens could see the prices at which Bulgarian roads are built," Svilenski commented.

Speaking at a news conference later on Monday, Regional Development and Public Works Minister Petya Avramova denied recent allegations by Socialist leader Kornelia Ninova that the state-owned Avtomagistrali company has subcontracted the construction of 134 km of the Hemus Motorway. Avramova's deputy Nikolay Nankov specified that framework agreements have been signed with ten legal persons for the supply of materials and rental of equipment for the overall current activity of the company.

Earlier in the day, the RIA also denied that Avtomagistrali has subcontracted the Hemus project.

It has not been made public whether the State-owned company will handle the construction of the 134 km on its own or will hire subcontractors that have yet to be chosen. Monday's press release said that in recent years Avtomagistrali has implemented a number of publicly important projects such as tunnels, viaducts, bridges and road surfacing on the Hemus, Trakia, Lyulin, Strouma and Maritsa motorways.

Over the weekend, Ninova said that her party will ask the European Commission whether the contract award is consistent with the State Aid Directive.

"There are clear rules on State aid," Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev told journalists on Monday, reacting to the BSP position. "Both the Public Procurement Act and the EU directive state categorically that the full Public Procurement Act procedure need not be applied if a company is wholly owned by the contracting entity. This, too, is an arrangement of the law itself and does not involve State aid." Donchev explained that this is a type of exception and is admissible under certain conditions. RY, LI/LG