ILLEGAL EXPLORATION ALONG STRUMA HIGHWAY RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT PUBLIC PROCUREMENT PROCEDURE
REPORT TO ALL COMPETENT AUTHORITIES PENDING
Illegal Exploration Along the Soon-Under-Construction Struma Highway Raises Questions About Public Procurement Procedure
More than seven kilometers of illegal temporary roads and wells of an unknown origin and without legal justification were discovered by the Anti-Corruption Fund (ACF) in the region of Kresna, along the soon-to-be-constructed Struma highway.
ACF’s findings were presented in an investigative report which was aired on 11 February by bTV, a private national TV channel.
ACF started the inquiry following a tip-off in December 2018. Our investigation confirmed that illegal preparatory and exploratory activities had been carried out along the would-be highway before a contractor was selected in the procurement procedure. The illegal works had been performed even before the tender documents for the technical design and the construction of the section Krupnik – Kresna were announced.
An analysis of publicly-available satellite images showed that the illegal temporary roads had been constructed between June and September 2018. During an on-the-spot check, vertical wells, typical for exploratory activities in the early stages of road construction, were found.
The roads and the wells had been constructed on public land, administered by the Kresna Forestry Department. Executives at the forestry department and the Southwestern Forestry Directorate did not know about the existence of the roads and the wells, neither did they build them or give permission to other parties to do so.
Roughly 6.4 kilometers out of the total seven kilometers had been built before the decision to open the tender was published by the Road Infrastructure Agency (RIA) on their website. At the time of construction, RIA had also not published all the available information about the tender − including information in the section Geology – due to be presented to all participants in the procedure to design and build the section Krupnik – Kresna from lot 3.2.2. and the section Kresna Bypass Road from lot 3.3.
According to witness reports, the illegal roads were built in the summer of 2018 with the goal to assist exploratory activities, related to the construction of Struma highway.
ACF stresses that the illegal gathering of additional information would give considerable advantage to any participant in the tender procedure, privy to it. This would violate the principles of transparency and equal treatment for all participants in public procurement procedures. These are basic principles, guiding the allocation of public funds, and covered by European and national public procurement legislation.
The indicative value of the project to design and build the section Krupnik – Kresna from lot 3.2.2. and the section Kresna Bypass Road from lot 3.3 is more than BGN 430 million, VAT excluded.
Considering the significant public investment in this project and the need to eliminate any doubts about corruption practices, ACF calls on all competent authorities to investigate the case and to announce publicly the names of the companies which carried out the illegal exploratory activities.
We call on all citizens who may have information, pertaining to this case, to contact us. ACF will continue to work on this case and will send a report to all the relevant government authorities.
Caption: Comparative analysis of satellite images showing 2,339 meters of new roads in the vicinity of the village of Vlahi. The changes include the removal of vegetation and the construction of a new road close to where, according to the approved design concept, viaducts and tunnels would be built as part of the new lot 3.2.2. of Struma highway. The images date 27 July – 7 August 2018, three weeks before the announcement of the public procurement tender for the detailed design and construction of this lot of the highway. The total length of all new roads is greater than 7,000 meters.