THE PUBLIC PROCUREMENT FOR TOLL SYSTEM AND E-VIGNETTE
AN ANNEX TO THE ORIGINAL CONTRACT FOR THE PROJECT
A REPORT TO THE PUBLIC FINANCIAL INSPECTION AGENCY
ACF Reports Irregularities in New Bulgarian Toll System Contract
Amendments to the BGN 180 million contract for a new toll and e-vignette system will slash a number of key components from the project but without reducing its price tag.
This and other facts related to the public procurement, which is administered by the Road Infrastructure Agency (RIA), led the Anti-corruption Fund to initiate a review of all relevant publicly-available documentation. Following the review, a number of irregularities have emerged and the Fund (ACF) has filed a report with the Public Financial Inspection Agency (PFIA).
ACF legal experts are concerned about an annex, signed by the contract parties on 28 September 2018. The annex introduces several amendments to the contract which dates from 16 January 2018.
The annex removes the following key components from the project:
- providing fiber optic cable connections to all busy border crossing points in the country
- building 7 rather than the initially-envisaged 30 mobile offices
- completing the fit-out of 195 toll portals instead of the initial 320.
According to media reports, the above-mentioned project components are among the most expensive for the contractor, Austrian consortium Kapsch Traffic Solutions. Still the contract value has remained unchanged at BGN 180 million lev.
RIA has explained the decision to remove the requirement for the building of a fiber optic network with a letter from the State e-Government Agency, according to which the already existing communications infrastructure was completely sufficient. When questioned by ACF regarding the matter, the State e-Government Agency replied that no such statements had been made in their correspondence with RIA.
According to RIA, the contract value was not changed, based on reports by independent valuators. However, these reports have not been published on the Agency’s website, as is required by public procurement procedures.
ACF has requested the independent valuation reports as per the Access to Information Act. We expect answers from all relevant public institutions. The ACF team would like to highlight that the transparent and efficient use of public funds requires that all key documents related to important public procurements (like the above-mentioned reports) should be publicly available.
ACF has also requested all other documents mentioned in the annex. Many of these documents should be attached to the annex, however RIA has not published them online yet.
In addition, it is not clear whether the multi-million-dollar contract has been amended in accordance with the law. The annex has been signed, based on article 116, subparagraph 1, point 3 of the Public Procurement Act which stipulates that public procurement contracts may be amended only if the following two requirements have been met:
1) amendments are due to unforeseen circumstances which the contractor could not have foreseen despite all due care
2) the amendments do not change the key provisions of the contract.
In its report to PFIA, our team has raised the question whether the two legal requirements listed above have both been met.
RIA has explained the need to amend the contract with factors such as unfavorable weather conditions and protection against vandalism. The amendment also mentions the need to carry out additional work in order to improve the electronic system: improved software functionality, improving accessibility to the electronic system, sensors, and others. However, no arguments have been presented to support the statement that the amendments are due to unforeseen circumstances.
ACF will continue to investigate this issue. We will inform the public when we receive all the documentation we have requested. We call on the relevant public institutions to act quickly and responsibly.