HIGH DIPLOMACY SWOOPS OVER MILITARY AIRPORTS
While politicians and governors are considering how far we are from jointing NATO, the Ministry of Defence obviously got into a muddle regarding the BGN33MN contest it had invited. Three candidates bid in the tender for utilizing this considerable sum, intended for modernization of the military airports in Kroumovo and Graf Ignatievo. They were: the German-French company Tales, the Italian Alenia Marconi, and the Canadian Intelcan Technosystems. On March 21 an interdepartmental 12-member commission, most of whose representatives were from the Ministry of defence, rated the Canadians first. Thus, the modest engineering company with an annual turnover of some USD7MN, which does not manufacture the special-purpose radar and other navigation equipment, needed by the two Bulgarian airports, won in the contest with the aces in the branch Tales and Alenia Marconi.But as the BANKER weekly learned, they have not put up with the loss. Scandalized by the choice and the lapses in the tender procedure, the two candidates approached on March 29 the Supreme Administrative Court. However, this has not bothered the chiefs of the Defence Ministry, which on the same day formed a commission, authorized to hold further negotiations for fulfillment of the order with the tender winner Intelcan Technosystems.The press centre of the Defence Ministry specified they had no information about the litigation of the tender procedure in court or about the setting up of the above-mentioned commission. But on April 2 the Defence Minister Nikolai Svinarov received a verbal note, issued by the German and the French embassies in Bulgaria, which reads:Your Excellency, we would like to draw your attention to the last tender, invited by the Ministry of Defence in the beginning of 2002, for the modernization of the airports in Kroumovo and Graf Ignatievo. The German-French company Tales, which participated in the tender was rated second. After analyzing this decision, the company came to the conslcusion that its offer had not been correctly evaluated. We are addressing you in order to support the company's stance for evaluating correctly and honestly the candidates' offers. We would highly appreciate reconsideration of the decision, taken by the Bulgarian authorities. This would confirm the Bulgarian Government's commitments for transparent tender procedures. It is also to Bulgaria's benefit to choose the best offer for such an important project as the modernization of the two military airports. Please, accept our assurances of profound concern.The verbal note has been signed by the representatives of the two embassies. Despite the kind tone, the verbal note itself is an indication of the successive scandal in which the Defence Ministry has unnecessarily got involved. It could have avoided it if its officials had taken pains to search in advance into several matters. First of all, what are the real possibilities to fulfill the project in question within the set term - December 15, 2002. Under the technical task, worked out by the Defence Ministry, the navigation equipment of the two military airports should bear the label Made in USA. The candidates had to comply with that condition when filing their offers on February 22, 2002. The trouble is that no one of them could possibly observe it due to quite a simple reason: the delivery of such equipment from the USA could not be done by the year-end. A proof of this is the official reply given to an inquiry from Tales by the specialized US service Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts, which organizes the tenders for delivery of military equipment abroad. It explains that since Bulgaria is not a NATO member and has no licensed freight forwarder overseas, the delivery of the required products might be effected 12 months after receiving the order. This time is required by the vendor to comply with all export laws and regulations. Having this in mind, the logical question is: Where from will Intelcan Technosystems buy the equipment it has promised to the Bulgarian Ministry of Defence.