Reporting period: January – June 2019
During the reporting period the team of Transparency International – Bulgaria continued monitoring the process of concluding contracts with the successful contractors for Zheleznitsa tunnel.
In the beginning of January 2019 the contracting authority Road Infrastructure Agency (RIA) published additional agreements to the contracts for lots 1 and 3. The annexes postponed the implementation of the design activities for the respective sections since no contracts had been signed with the consultants in charge of the supervision.
In mid-February 2019 RIA announced the conclusion of the contract for lot 2 – the tunnel itself. Surprisingly the contract was concluded with a consortium led by GP Group AD, which several months before that announced in an open letter to the media that they would renounce the contract. According to the information contained in the RIA announcement, the second tenderer, an association of companies of Glavbolgarstroy holding, did not confirm the validity of its offer. The submitted tenders expired in the end of 2018 and the contracting authority failed to request their renewal before expiry of the initial deadline.
In March 2019, the contracting authority concluded contracts for the consultancy services under the three lots, which allowed the design activities to start. Later in April, an annex to the contract for lot 2 was published at the RIA website concerning the postponement of the launch of the design activities, similar to the ones referred to above.
The independent monitor followed closely the conclusion of contracts, including through ongoing correspondence and requests for information from the Road Infrastructure Agency. The team of Transparency International Bulgaria drew up two monitoring reports with detailed observations, conclusions and recommendations. The monitoring reports will be published after the verification procedure with the contracting authority is completed.
The many postponements and delays of the tender for Zheleznitsa tunnel caught the attention of the European Commission due to the high risk of failure to implement the construction works within the eligibility period under the Operational Programme “Transport and Transport Infrastructure”. In response to the request of Directorate General Regional and Urban Policy, Transparency International Bulgaria prepared a synthesis of the tenders monitoring from 2015 to the present moment. We have included in the document the deficiencies that we have established in the legal regulation relevant to the public procurement, practices of its application and recommendations for overcoming them. Our team believes that the synthesis will be of use to both the public institutions and civil society organisations, including foreign ones, that work on problems related to the public procurement.
During the reporting period, we observed a series of personnel changes in the Management Board and senior management of the Road Infrastructure Agency. In our opinion the aggregation of these processes affected the pace of the work of the specialized administration, including the communication with Transparency International – Bulgaria as independent monitor of the tender for Zheleznitsa tunnel.
Our team continued trying to engage the business to the Integrity Pact. Our representatives met two of the three contractors under the monitored public procurement. The Road Infrastructure Agency supported us for the arrangement of one of the meetings, which we assess positively. As an additional incentive for the tenderers, we published a White List where we will announce the contractors’ accession to the Pact.
In view of the soon expected start of construction works, Transparency International – Bulgaria held a series of meetings with the administration and civil society representatives in the area of the construction works. Our team presented the objectives of the project and the monitoring to the local communities and together we discussed how they may be involved in the monitoring on the field. This activity will continue in the next months, so as to involve as many active citizens as possible. Our goal is to create an environment for the affected communities allowing for civilian control over the spending of public funds.
Visits to the area of the construction works allowed us to conduct provisional field monitoring. Our team registered preparatory construction works, including temporary roads and concrete production hub around the northern entry of Zheleznitsa tunnel. Our team will continue the monitoring of the construction works with the support of road construction experts.