EU scrutinises tender worth millions hidden within €500 competition

SLOVAKIA faces the threat of losing €17 million that the European Union wants back from a tender from the first government of Robert Fico.

SLOVAKIA faces the threat of losing €17 million that the European Union wants back from a tender from the first government of Robert Fico.

Then Transport Minister Ľubomír Vážny initiated an order in 2009 for a broad proposal on how to operate EU Operational Programme Transport, including PR services, with a competition of proposals for €500. After this, however, only the winner of the competition could run for the order for consulting and advertisement services related to this programme, which was to cost €20 million, though this sum was later decreased to €19,992,830. The winner was the media agency Unimedia, run by tycoons Ivan Kmotrík and Ján Kasper; the head of the firm is Vladimír Vokáľ, the Sme daily reported.

The EU has already started a correction process over Vážny’s tender. Vážny now serves as Deputy Prime Minister for Investments and is thus responsible for EU funds. Slovakia will either defend its tender or have to offer a project of the same value; otherwise the sum of €17 million that the EU contributed to the project will not be repaid.

Gabriel Šípoš of the Transparency International ethics watchdog considers the flaws in the tender to be so serious that they could cost Vážny his post.

“I do not believe that it was an accident or unwieldiness - just the opposite is true,” Šípoš said, as quoted by Sme. “If the ministry announced the competition of proposals, it should mention the sum of the whole order in that announcement. ”

The ministry, however, says it will defend the competition before the EU, claiming that the Public Procurement Office (ÚVO) confirmed that the ministry’s approach was in line with the law. It refused to answer questions by Sme related to the competition, claiming that it is not possible to provide further information until discussions with the European Commission about this issue are finished.

(Source: Sme)

Compiled by Roman Cuprik from press reports
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