Slovakia’s Supreme Audit Office (NKÚ) is to launch an inspection on Thursday, November 12, into the money spent in the so-called 'bulletin-board' tender at the Construction and Regional Development Ministry, NKÚ spokesperson Lenka Nosálová announced on Wednesday, November 11. She said that the conclusions of the inspection can be expected "within roughly two months", with the length of the process depending on the complexity of the documents presented by the ministry.
The Construction and Regional Development Ministry announced a tender for supplying various legal and advertising services co-financed by EU Funds solely on a bulletin board located within the ministry's headquarters. The ministry, which is run by the Slovak National Party (SNS), then signed an agreement with the winning bidder – a consortium that included the companies Zamedia and Avocat – and paid out part of the money for the services. It later came to light that both Zamedia and Avocat have links to SNS chairman Ján Slota and that the consortium's bid was extremely expensive.
At the end of 2008, the opposition and media started to draw attention to the non-transparency, cronyism and exaggerated costs associated with the tender. In an earlier round of inspections, the NKÚ and the Public Procurement Office (ÚVO) found that various legal provisions of the Public Procurements Act had been violated. Prime Minister Robert Fico then sacked construction minister Marian Janušek (SNS) and replaced him with Igor Štefanov (also SNS), who agreed with the winning consortium that its contract should be cancelled.
Due to the fact that the EU contributed towards the financing of the order, worth a total of €120 million, respective EU bodies announced on October 6 that they would not cover the payments made by the state, and refused to provide the €11 million that Slovakia had been expecting to receive for expenses already incurred. The opposition called on Fico to dismiss Štefanov, who was closely involved with the original tender, but he rejected their demand. The case has also been taken up by the Prosecutor's Office, which is now deciding whether to claim compensation for so-called 'unjustified enrichment' from the winning consortium.
Fico said that if the present NKÚ probe finds that the law has been broken, he will dismiss Śtefanov from his post.
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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