HN: Brussels investigates fraud with photovoltaic power plant

Brussels-based European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) is investigating the dubious competition over the construction of the Malá Domaša photovoltaic power plant in eastern Slovakia. Due to the dubious practices surrounding the construction of the facility, it is possible that Slovakia will have to return €1.2 million which it received through EU structural funds, the Hospodárske Noviny daily reported on May 13.

Brussels-based European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) is investigating the dubious competition over the construction of the Malá Domaša photovoltaic power plant in eastern Slovakia. Due to the dubious practices surrounding the construction of the facility, it is possible that Slovakia will have to return €1.2 million which it received through EU structural funds, the Hospodárske Noviny daily reported on May 13.

According to the report written by OLAF, the Bratislava-based company Gestus Investment picked only one supplier for the construction of the power plant located in the Vranov nad Topľou district, which means that it “violated the principle of equal treatment and did not ensure the competition”.

Gestus Investment applied for the subsidy in 2009 when the Regulatory Office for Network Industries (ÚRSO) set the prices of energy made by photovoltaic power plants to eight times higher than the ordinary market price.

According to OLAF, the company allegedly had given the necessary terms for the competition over the supply of components to selected suppliers before it published the announcement about the tender on its website. Moreover, it pointed to the fact that the Economy Ministry, when announcing the possibility to claim the money from the structural funds, did not require the applicants to have any previous experience in the energy sector.

OLAF has already advised the Economy Ministry to claim the money given to Gestus Investment as a subsidy for the construction of the power plant. Moreover, the ministry has launched an investigation into the competition, saying that if it finds there were mistakes, it will ask the firm to return the money. The ministry did not want to disclose whether or not the conditions for applicants were set correctly, Hospodárske Noviny wrote.

The daily has so far been unable to contact any of the current representatives of Gestus Investment.

Meanwhile, project manager of the Slovak Association of Photovoltaic Industry (SAPI) Marek Harviš said that there could be some cases where the speculators might have been involved. Such companies “harm the reputation of the whole sector”, he told Hospodárske Noviny.

Source: Hospodárske Noviny

Compiled by Radka Minarechová from press reports

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