Reporting period: July – December 2017
The activities carried out by Transparency International Bulgaria during the reporting period in the framework of the ‘Integrity Pacts – Civil Control Mechanism for Safeguarding EU Funds’ project followed the development of a public procurement procedure for ‘Zheleznitsa tunnel’. In this context, the following key stages and events may be outlined:
- April – August 2017 – preparation of the second procurement procedure for ‘Zheleznitsa’ tunnel
- 1 September 2017 – launch of the second procurement procedure
- 29 September 2017 – termination of the second procurement procedure
- 17 October 2017 – launch of the third procurement procedure
- 28 November 2017 – opening the submitted bids for the design and construction of ‘Zheleznitsa’ tunnel
Signature of Integrity Pact(s)
Following the termination of the first public procurement procedure for the design and construction of the tunnel in April 2017, the new tender was expected to be prepared and conducted under new circumstances and conditions, most importantly the new Public Procurement Act (promulgated SG no. 13 of 16 February 2016) applicable to all public procedures after 15 April 2016, as well as the different approach endorsed by the Road Infrastructure Agency (RIA) in the elaboration of the tender documentation. In order to take account of the new legislation in force and the RIA rules governing the management of the procurement cycle, the Independent Observer and the Contracting Authority agreed to sign a new Integrity Pact (instead of an annex to the former IP) in relation to the procedure under preparation. This approach also aimed to facilitate the interested private companies and the general public in following upon their specific roles and commitments under the Pact.
The negotiations between Transparency International Bulgaria and the Road Infrastructure Agency on specific provisions of the document continued till the end of August 2017. Reaching a compromise on the scope of information and the manner for its provision by the Contracting Authority for the purpose of the independent monitoring turned out to be a challenge. RIA’s cautious position may to some extent be explained with the tension to which RIA administration was put following the scandal with the missing part of an offer. The disappearance of documents was the reason to terminate the first procurement procedure. However, this should not be used as an excuse to restrict the transparency of the internal processes and procedures. On the contrary, more transparency would have a positive effect on the public confidence in the institutions and their image.
Reaching a consensus on the purpose, spirit and implementation of the Integrity Pact, on 1 September 2017 the heads of Transparency International Bulgaria and the Road Infrastructure Agency signed a new Integrity Pact to the public procurement procedure for the design and construction of ‘Zheleznitsa’ tunnel lot 3.1 ‘Struma’ motorway, which this time was split into three lots. This procedure was terminated upon a recommendation of the Public Procurement Agency following amendments in the tender documentation made by the Contracting Authority during the time period for the submission of offers.
When the third procedure for this project was launched on 16 October 2017, the Independent Observer and the Contracting Authority signed a third Integrity Pact. The reasons for signing a separate document are similar to the ones stated above in this report, and the document of the Pact itself did not undergo any substantial modifications compared to the version from September 2017.
Monitoring the procurement procedure for the design and construction of ‘Zheleznitsa’ tunnel
Second procedure announced with decision no. 92 of 1 September 2017
Parallel to negotiating the text of the Integrity Pact, the team of Transparency International Bulgaria monitored the preparation of the new public procurement. The monitoring followed open-source information as well as information provided by the Contracting Authority during specifically arranged meetings and conversations. In addition, the Independent Observer collected the viewpoints of the business as regards the expected changes in the public procurement. At the stage of preparation of the procurement procedure, the Road Infrastructure Agency and the principal, the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works announced that the procurement would be split into three lots and the implementation period would be reduced in view of the time periods under the Operational Programme “Transport and Transport Infrastructure” 2014-2020 co-financing the project.
Following the launch of the procedure and the publication of the tender documentation, the monitoring team started intensive work on analysing the documentation. The changes made by the Contracting Authority at the stage of the submission of offers resulted in a statement of the Public Procurement Agency (PPA), which recommended that the procedure be terminated. The reasons of the PPA were premised on the conclusion that the changes made in fact changed the scope of potential tenderers, which is inadmissible according to the law.
Transparency International Bulgaria elaborated a special monitoring report on this procedure. The report focuses on the key aspects of the second tender such as the major differences between the first and second tender and the termination of the procedure. The monitoring report will be published on the project website after the verification procedure with the Contracting Authority has been completed.
Third procedure announced with decision no. 115 of 17 October 2017
The third procedure for ‘Zheleznitsa’ tunnel was announced by the Contracting Authority mid-October. The preliminary review of the documentation demonstrates that it has not been significantly changed as compared to the documents and requirements concerning the second procedure. Transparency International Bulgaria continues its monitoring of the ongoing procedure.
A representative of Transparency International Bulgaria attended the first open meeting of the evaluation committee. The meeting took place on the initially announced date of 28 November 2017. The submitted bids were opened during the meeting. A total of 28 companies and associations took part in the procedure, of which eight submitted offers for lot 1, 13 – for lot 2, and 7 – for lot 3. The committee shall evaluate and rank the bids within 12 months from the date they have been opened. The monitoring team continues to follow closely the procedure.
During the reporting period Transparency International Bulgaria continued updating its dedicated project website http://integrity.transparency.bg/. The final monitoring report on the public procurement terminated in April 2017 was elaborated. The ‘Monitoring’ section which provides real-time information on the course of procedures of ‘Zheleznitsa’ project was regularly updated as well.
Public events and training
Members of the “Integrity Pacts – Civil Control Mechanism for Safeguarding EU Funds” project team took part in the annual Integrity Pact Stakeholder Event. The meeting took place on 14 December 2017 in Bucharest, Romania and gathered together representatives of the European Commission, Contracting Authorities, business and non-governmental organisations. Participants in the event had the opportunity to present the progress in project implementation in their respective countries and to discuss possible solutions for the problems they encountered. Four interactive seminars were conducted in the framework of the annual meeting. During the seminars participants representing one party to the Integrity Pact had the chance to assume a different role, which contributed to understanding the viewpoint of the other parties to the Pact. Michaela Rajkova from our team moderated the seminar on “Sharing lessons from IP experience: what works well and what should we try to improve”.
In December 2017 the team of Transparency International Bulgaria took part in a two-day training on the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning component – part of the project aimed at establishing how, why and in what circumstances the Integrity Pacts contribute to improving the public procurement process.
Transparency International Bulgaria regularly takes part in online seminars and consultations organised by the project coordinator, Transparency International Secretariat. Our team’s experience in the monitoring of public procurement and the application of the Integrity Pact is often sought by the other partners involved in the initiative.
 RIA succeeded the closed down state enterprise National Company “Strategic Infrastructure Projects” as a Contracting Authority in the first tender for ‘Zheleznitsa’ tunnel. The National Company “Strategic Infrastructure Projects” had prepared the tender documentation and announced the public procurement. The succession took place at the stage of submission of offers.