MINISTER VASSILEV WALKS INTO THE TRAP SET BY CARRIERS
A specially created group including representatives of the Motor Administration Executive Agency, the Ministry of Transport, and the branch organisations is going to revise the 2004 activities of transport companies occupied with international transportation of goods. By the end of February the group has to find out whether or not any of them has forged documents, especially CEMT permissions that allow them to carry out numerous transportations to countries in the European Union (EU) without paying some of the road fees. This is the result from the meeting of the Transport Minister Nikolay Vassilev with representatives of seven transport organisations held on January 10. If a company is found to have made serious violations, I myself will ask to exclude it from the CEMT permission list, Minister Vassilev said.The group was created after the scandal with the biggest transportation company in Bulgaria, SOMAT, owned by the German Willy Betz hauliers group. Its competitors from the National Union of Bulgarian Carriers asked that it be deprived of 2005 permissions because of having forged such documents last year. The BANKER weekly described the problem and published part of the SOMAT permission which seemed to contain a few irregularities.Branch experts are convinced that the Ministry of Transport is perfectly aware of all violations but prefers to hide the truth. This is partially confirmed by the fact that there are no violations proved, yet SOMAT was sanctioned. When asked why the company was given just 150 of the 290 CEMT documents it had a right to take for 2005, Nikolay Vassilev explained: In my opinion, SOMAT's work coefficient which determines how many permissions it has a right to take is lowered because of violations in the past. Still, he said nothing about a document forgery.The coefficient in question is formed on the basis of the kilometres travelled by the trucks of the carrier. It may be lowered in several cases: when the vehicles have travelled with such permissions less than 8,500 km per month in the previous year, when they have transported goods to one and the same country, when no one-time permissions for transportation to EU countries have been used, or when the company remains below the minimum level of used TIR carnets for transit crossing of the eurozone states. However, being the largest carrier in Bulgaria, SOMAT is not likely to have made these five violations. The company uses nearly 4,000 trucks, of which 700 are registered in Bulgaria. Besides, in 2004 alone it added 200 new vehicles to its truck fleet. According to its managers, SOMAT carries out about 40,000 courses and can in no way be accused of not having enough orders.Therefore, it should have either violated the permission regimes regulated by Bulgaria's bilateral agreements or gone wrong when declaring, using, and reporting the permissions. Still, the Ministry of Transport does not say a word about that.The only chance to learn the truth now is to watch what the special working group will do. It will have almost the same members as the commission that gave out the CEMT permissions last year. Therefore, a question logically arises: if other carriers are found to have forged the international documents too, will the violators be sanctioned? It is obvious that the whole confusion has been at least partially caused by those who distributed the permissions.Curiously, the forces in the group are allocated in a way that promises no good for SOMAT. Nine of its 15 members come from the branch organisations, of which in turn seven asked that SOMAT be deprived of permissions. Therefore, if the company has made a mistake, it will not get away with it. However, its competitors are more likely to wriggle out and even clear the market for themselves by taking more permissions at least until the next scandal explodes. And scandals will certainly not be avoided if the court to which SOMAT turned decides that it has been illegally deprived of more than a half of the 2005 CEMT permissions due. In that case the Ministry of Transport will be forced to find other violators, suspend their permissions and award them to the biggest transport company in the country.