Transparency International Bulgaria presented the results of the civil monitoring of the construction of Zheleznitsa Tunnel, the most expensive infrastructure project in Bulgaria in the past decades, to representatives of the local community – media, non-governmental organisations and local authorities on 30 September 2021 in Blagoevgrad.
The event was also attended by representatives of the Contracting Authority, Road Infrastructure Agency, and of the Managing Authority of Transport and Transport Infrastructure Operational Programme.
The event was opened by Kalin Slavov, Executive Director of TI-Bulgaria. He presented the background of the project and the Integrity Pact as a tool of independent civil monitoring seeking to ensure greater accountability and transparency in the use of European Union funds. The introductory part of the presentation noted the significant delay in the start of this strategic project due to the failure of two consecutive public procurement bids, one of which under suspicious circumstances.
Vanya Nusheva and Attorney-at-Law Dimitar Stoimenov from Transparency International Bulgaria familiarised the audience with the main results of the independent civil monitoring of the project for the construction of Zheleznitsa Tunnel. The reasons for the monitoring of this project include the strategic importance of the site, its enormous financial value and the fact that it is part of a pan-European strategic corridor.
Based on the six-year monitoring, it can be concluded that the political changes exert the most significant impact on the implementation of the most expensive project for the road infrastructure of the country which takes the form of prolonged procedures to choose a contractor for the construction of Zheleznitsa Tunnel.
The analysis of the results of monitoring of this site shows that the main risk potential was accumulated due to the selection of a way to assign the public procurement – engineering, and its division into three separate lots. In the division of the public procurement, the financial risk was diversified among three contractors while the risk of project non-implementation was multiplied by three. In addition, this generated tremendous, bulky and expensive administration of the process.
The disputable approach to the assignment of the procurement through engineering proved inappropriate as regards the pricing of the project and the implementation deadlines which were changed several times. The manner of assignment chosen also entailed the risk of deteriorating quality of the construction but the monitoring has not found this risk in practice so far.
The lack of accuracy and exhaustiveness of the input data, including geological research, resulted in unforeseen circumstances – appearance of landslides in the sections before and after Zheleznitsa Tunnel. Here the monitoring identified the risk of extension of the implementation deadlines and a financial risk of an increase in the overall value of the construction of the site.
The deficiencies highlighted also include the difficult communication between the contractors for Zheleznitsa Tunnel and those for other lots of Struma Motorway which has had a negative impact on the site construction.