IGOR Štefanov, a former minister of construction and regional development and a previous MP from the Slovak National Party (SNS), has become the fifth person charged by police with manipulating public procurement in the so-called bulletin-board tender case dating from 2008, the TASR newswire reported, adding that if Štefanov is found guilty he could face seven to twelve years in prison.
The allegedly manipulated tender was for legal and support services worth €120 million and was partially funded by the EU.
The tender was announced solely via a notice posted on a bulletin board at the Construction Ministry in an area not normally accessible to the public.
Only one bid was received, from a consortium including two companies, Avocat and Zamedia, which were later reported to be close to SNS leader Ján Slota. A contract was signed with the consortium just a day after its bid envelope was opened.
Štefanov served as a senior official at the ministry when the tender was announced and was later appointed minister after his party colleague, Marián Janušek, was sacked by then-prime minister Robert Fico. The contract was terminated in May 2009 after official audits confirmed that the tender was improperly conducted and that the services covered in the contract were overpriced.
“It [the chosen bid] was, contrary to law, assessed as successful even though it did not meet the criteria set in the announcement for offering bids and in the competition materials,” said Denisa Balogová, the spokesperson for Slovakia’s Police Presidium, as quoted by TASR. “Therefore it [the consortium’s bid] should have been excluded from the competition.”
The police asked the General Prosecutor’s Office to submit a proposal to parliament to strip Štefanov of his immunity as an MP in March 2011. But acting general prosecutor Ladislav Tichý refused to submit the proposal and returned the case to the police. Štefanov lost his seat in parliament in March.
In addition to Štefanov the police have charged his ministerial predecessor Janušek, along with persons identified only as Radoslav B., Tomáš L. and Zdenka K.