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Heavily-criticised amendment to Public Procurement Act passed

The drawing of European funds will be quicker, claims Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák who managed to get the "small amendment" to the Public Procurements Act passed in a fast-tracked procedure in parliament on Wednesday, February 13. The legislation, passed in 24 hours, received support of 79 MPs out of present 140.

The drawing of European funds will be quicker, claims Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák who managed to get the "small amendment" to the Public Procurements Act passed in a fast-tracked procedure in parliament on Wednesday, February 13. The legislation, passed in 24 hours, received support of 79 MPs out of present 140.

If signed by President Ivan Gašparovič, the amendment will come into effect as early as Monday, February 18. Kaliňák explained this haste by saying that Slovakia needs to salvage every euro from European funds that have to be spent by the end of 2013: "The government has to attempt to create such an environment where the realisation of projects is possible. In general, we're talking €500 million at the moment. If there is such an enormous amount of money at our disposal, we're obliged to do our utmost to make it available for the state," stressed the minister.

The so-called "small amendment" is designed to reduce the administrative burden during the process of public procurement. Bidders will be able to use statutory declarations to proclaim that they meet all the conditions and it will be possible to conclude a contract also with a runner-up or a bidder who ended up third in the tender. Also, the legislation introduces sanctions such as a ban on participating in tenders for the next three years if any cheating is detected during the process of proving that all conditions were met. Among other changes, the Office for Public Procurement (ÚVO) will be enlarged by 39 new employees, as Kaliňák argues that it has long been understaffed. He said that resources and personnel will be re-allocated from other ministries.

The bill came in for scathing criticism from the opposition, with Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) MP Jozef Mihál indicating that the reason that the government accelerated passage of the amendment was a tender to construct the 11-km Hričovské Podhradie-Lietavská Lúčka stretch of the D1 highway near Źilina. Mihal believes that the government wants the amendment to come into effect as of February 18 so that the tender can be finalised before April 1. As of this date, powers regarding the drawing of EU Funds will be transferred from Transport, Construction and Regional Development Minister Ján Počiatek to deputy prime minister for investments Ľubomír Vážny.

The Transport Ministry denied such allegations on Tuesday, with ministry spokesman Martin Kóňa calling them 'made-up'.

Source: TASR

Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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