The European Commission on Tuesday, September 28, sent a reasoned opinion – the second stage in its infringement procedure – to Slovakia for breaching European legislation by failing to announce a Europe-wide tender for its electronic road-toll system operator and discriminating against candidates in the tender process.
"The Commission is concerned that Slovakia has breached EU public procurement rules by discriminating against some candidates and thus not opening up a tender procedure for electronic toll collection to EU-wide competition. Public procurement rules are designed to ensure fair competition for public contracts in Europe, thereby creating opportunities for European companies while ensuring the best value for public money. If these rules are not properly implemented, there is a risk of a closed market and a waste of public money," reads commission's statement.
After bids had been lodged in the tender, which was first announced in 2007, the National Highway Company (NDS) excluded three bidders for failing to meet its technical requirements. Howver, after the contract had been signed with the winner of the tender (the SanToll-Ibertax consortium) on January 13, 2009, several of the tender conditions were changed. "If these modifications had been made and communicated at the beginning of the procedure, participating bidders might have submitted a different tender and more candidates might have participated in the bidding procedure," states the EC. "By excluding certain candidates for unjustified reasons and by substantially modifying the contract after it had been signed, the European Commission finds that the National Motorway Company has violated the principle laid down in the EU's statutes on non-discrimination. This has prevented proper competition and may have represented a waste of taxpayers' money," the EC said, as quoted by the TASR newswire. Slovakia now has two months to avoid court action by sending an official response to the commission's reservations.
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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1. Oct 2010 at 10:00