REPORT ON GRAIN DELAYED
Disentangling shady deals in grain from the State Reserve and Wartime Stocks Agency turned out a more complicated task than expected. On March 16, Plamen Mollov, Chairman of the inquiry commission (set up in December 2003), demanded from Parliament a one month extension of the term for submitting the final report on the matter. Debates pro and con the new deadline - April 16 - divided MPs into two groups. The deputies from the ethnic Turks' Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) and the socialists-dominated Coalition for Bulgaria expressed their unwillingness to delay the issue further. Unlike them, the MPs from the National Movement Simeon II (NMSII), the United Democratic Forces (UDF-coalition), the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) and the People's Union, voiced the stance that the information gathered so far has been inadequate and inconsistent, hiding a risk that the final report might be incorrect and could mislead the deputies. The work of the inquiry commission was rendered extremely difficult by its political configuration, MPs said. The members from the MRF and Coalition for Bulgaria boycotted the work: the former openly opposed the attempts for a more detailed inspection of the firms, involved in the scam, and the latter simply did not attend the meetings, the deputies explained. Due to the drastic differences in the figures presented by the State Reserve in the beginning of February, the commission decided to measure the quantities, stored in warehouses. Therefore, another interdepartmental commission was set up, including experts from five entities. Its task was to compare the information from the documents with the real stores in the grain warehouses. Some of its findings, however, have aroused distrust in the MPs from the inquiry commission and they will make their parallel inspection of the storehouses, located mainly in Northern Bulgaria. It is amazing that more than 90% of the state-owned wheat is not stored in the warehouses of the State Reserve, but in others which are not licensed and registered and do not meet even the elementary requirements. In the same time, the State Reserve and Wartime Stocks Agency spends money in order to maintain its own warehouses and pays wages to its employees. Let alone the fact that control was so neglected that the grain vanished. The reason for the theft is that milling wheat is presently traded at quite attractive prices - over BGN340-350/ton - due to the poor crop and the inadequate work of the Agriculture Ministry, former minister of agriculture Ventsislav Varbanov told the BANKER weekly. According to Monyo Hristov, MP from the People's Union, the lengthening of the term for the operation of the inquiry commission is also necessary because of the complicated and not completely clarified relations between the grain-keepers, exporters, and mills. We found that some of the warehouses are owned by one company, but the contract for storage has been signed with a other one, connected with it. It turns out that grain-keepers, exporters and players on the commodity exchange were connected, Mr. Hristov said.