Slovakia will probably have to return part of the money it used from the European Union’s structural funds for the informatisation projects during the previous programming period. The European Commission will probably refuse to repay parts of the 20 projects, amounting to €45 million in total, the Denník N daily reported.
The list of IT projects criticised by the EU was published by Martin Turček from the Stop the Corruption Foundation at the Slovensko.Digital website.
“The most important result is not that we have lost €45 million from the funds, but that nobody is actively publishing this information,” Turček told Denník N. “Conversely, some authorities actively hide from people how much they lost due to bad projects and competitions.”
Turček received the information about problematic projects from the Government’s Office, but he had to ask for it twice as for the first time it did not disclose the final amount Slovakia may lose, Denník N wrote.
As the Government’s Office has not answered the daily’s additional questions, it is not clear whether the country needs to return the money only due to the flaws in competitions or what specific flaws had been made. It is also not clear whether part of the money had been used on other projects.
The documents approved by the government in July only indicate that Slovakia failed to use about €0.5 billion allocated for IT projects, Denník N wrote.
Mostly self-governing regions’ projects questioned
The most problematic projects, according to the Government’s Office data, was the IT project of the Prešov Self-Governing Region.
“I was not surprised at all – also the investigation of the Antimonopoly Office concerning the systems for self-governing regions suggests that the competitions were not fair and were allegedly part of cartel agreements,” Turček told Denník N.
The Antimonopoly Office (PMÚ) has been investigating the suspicions over the deal made between IT companies in six self-governing regions (Prešov, Trnava, Nitra, Košice, Banská Bystrica and Žilina) for several years. It pointed to the fact that in all regions only two firms had submitted bids, though the services were similar and the companies could have attended also other competitions.
Following raids in the companies, PMÚ revealed evidence suggesting cartel agreements between the firms in their email conversations. The highest profit from projects allegedly went to company DWC, which belongs to the portfolio of tycoon Jozef Brhel, one of the most influential businessmen close to Smer, Denník N wrote.
High on the list is also the project of the Interior Ministry which is mentioned particularly in connection with electronic mailboxes or eHealth. The ministry, however, sees no reason for returning the money and says it is waiting for the response of the Finance Ministry which has been responsible for audits until recently, the daily reported.
The total sum Slovakia will have to return is not final, confirmed Ingrid Ludviková from the EC Representation Office in Slovakia. It may send the final list in March 2018, the Finance Ministry added.
16. Aug 2016 at 13:23 | Compiled by Spectator staff