Siemens Slovakia was at the centre of a 1999 scandal over a contract for the repair of Bratislava's public lighting system.
Pavel Vlček, former general director of the Metro company, which was created by Bratislava city council and the state as a joint project to oversee construction of a subway system, said that a new tender for the supply company to the project should be called following the scandal.
Siemens acquired French firm Matra Transport International (MTI) in 1998, after MTI had already won the contract for supplying the Bratislava project with trains and tracks.
Vlček said that the recent attention on Siemens' activities in Slovakia warranted a new tender.
"A new tender has to be announced, if a new wave of suspicions of corruption is not to sweep through Bratislava. Siemens is in the game, and it has been connected with [allegations of bribery] in the state treasury project," he told the daily Pravda August 13.
The question marks over Siemens' subway role came after the suspension of another tender for the supply of a 1.2 billion crown information system for the state treasury. The Office for Public Procurement (ÚVO) took the decision to suspend the process July 30 after head of the tender commission Daniel Ferjanček admitted that he had been offered a bribe by one of the tender's participants.
Another member of the commission, Milan Hupka, later alleged that he had been approached by Siemens before the tender and told that the firm was interested in helping "stabilise" project teams which would be involved in the implementation of the information system at the state treasury. The teams, Hupka said, would have included members of the firm Datacentrum, of which he is the general director.
Siemens Business Services Austria was named by the Slovak Attorney General's Office as the firm under investigation.
Siemens Business Services, Hewlett-Packard Slovakia and IBM Slovakia had submitted offers in the tender. However, IBM Slovakia was excluded from the process after it delivered its bid past deadline.
Both Siemens and Hewlett-Packard Slovakia denied any attempts to bribe officials on the selection committee. But on August 9, Slovak media cited a source from the Attorney General's Office saying that "the bribe was offered to a commission's member by a representative from Siemens [Business Services]".
Ferjanček was allegedly offered 1.5 million Slovak crowns to vote for the Austrian firm in the tender, and a further million if he could persuade any other members to do the same.
Representatives of Siemens Slovakia welcomed Slovak authorities' efforts to promote transparency in the state treasury tender. "Suspension of the tender for a project that is so time-sensitive does not make us happy, but on the other hand, there must be transparency [during the tender]. In this sense, we cannot object to the action taken by the ministry," said Peter Prónay, general director of Siemens Slovakia. "Moreover, we believe Siemens submitted the best bid."
Local analysts dismissed claims that the firm's role in the subway project would be put in jeopardy following the scandal.
"I don't think Siemens' further business activities in Slovakia are threatened, as this has only involved one of the many divisions of the parent company," said Marek Jakoby, analyst at think-tank MESA 10. "The [mother] firm will probably issue a standpoint and distance itself from this case."
When asked by media about the possibility of a new tender being called for the supply of the subway project, Bratislava Mayor Jozef Moravčík said he felt it was unnecessary. However, he added that the delay between the signing of the contract for supply on the subway project in 1997, and the start of work on the programme now, would necessitate a further look at the contract.
"We would be taking this review even without the recent affair with Siemens," said Moravčík.
The Finance Ministry has said that a new tender is likely to be called for the state treasury information system after the recent press attention. Siemens said that were the current tender to be cancelled, it would bid in a new one.
Siemens Slovakia was at the centre of a suspected corruption scandal in late 1999 when it emerged that members of the ruling coalition Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) had three years earlier been on the payroll of private firm TV Com. The firm had received 30 million crowns from Siemens Slovakia just weeks before Siemens was awarded a 1.8 billion crown contract to repair and modernise the capital's public lighting system. Head of the city council at the time had been mayor and KDH member Peter Kresánek.
Siemens denied any possible corruption, and the firm was never charged in connection with the affair.
-with Peter Barecz
20. Aug 2001 at 0:00 | Zuzana Habšudová