ISPA PROJECTS DELAYED BY BULGARIAN EXPERTS
Bulgaria's annual quota under the European Union's pre-accession funds for projects in the spheres of ecology and transport infrastructure is about EUR100MN. However, these finances have been utilized inadequately so far, the Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Public Works Georgi Saev said in front of the BANKER weekly. The main reason is that the Bulgarian administration has not yet mastered the procedures for evaluation of the documentation and for the choice of a supervisor, which is a must in order to get the money from the EU. There are few experts in Bulgaria who know in detail this method of work. They still do not have the necessary qualification and when they get trained they quit and assume more prestigious positions with much higher remuneration. The situation is similar not only in the Ministry of Regional Development, but also in the Transport Ministry and the Ministry of Environment.Additional difficulties are created by the preparation of documentation for the projects. The Bulgarian experts who work together with foreign consultants, make mistakes. The documentation goes back to Brussels for revision. This is a slow process. All this causes delays. An example about that are the three water treatment stations under the EU's ISPA Programme. The financial memoranda for them were signed two years ago, and the procedures for choosing a supervisor and a contractor will not start before the end of this year. This concerns the stations in Dimitrovgrad and Srtara Zagora. The projects are worth a total of EUR143MN. The tender for the construction was invited on July 5, 2002. The deadline for presenting the offers - October 7, 2002 - was observed, and 14 companies filed bids. The water treatment station in Haskovo is financed by the European Investment Bank. By the end of the month the documents will be sent to Luxemburg. The tender for the construction is expected to be invited in the beginning of February 2003. The first tenders for six solid waste dupms are to be invited as well by the Ministry of Environment and Waters, Mr. Saev said. According to him, the documents for these projects have also been returned many times by the EU officials. The electrification of the Svilengrad-Plovdiv railway has been also delayed. Difficulties here come from unsettled problems regarding the compensation of owners of land. The promise of the European Commission's Delegation to redistribute part of the funds, earmarked for the countries that will be accepted into the EU in 2004, sounds ecouraging for Bulgaria. The money may come into Bulgaria if we succeed to utilize by end-2006 the funds projected for us. According to Mr. Saev, this is especially important because the projects are implemented under a set scheme. When financing comes under the ISPA Programme, 75% of the project's worth is free grant, and the balance of 25% is either own funds or co-financing by the EIB or the EBRD. The Ministry of Regional Development intends to support a project of the Sofia Municipality, to be financed by ISPA. The fulfilment of the project for a 6-km extension of the Todor Kableshkov boulevard, which is presently under draft, may begin in a year or a year and a half, Viktor Kolarov, head of the department for the implementation the ISPA Programme at the Ministry of Regional Development, said for the BANKER weekly.