MINISTRY OF INTERIOR SHELVES THE BIO PASSPORTS
Something almost improbable happened in Bulgaria last week. In the interval between the shots and the carrying out of the dead bodies, Deputy Minister of Interior, Goran Yonov, announced that a millions-tender procedure was terminated. His statement put an end to the process of selecting a company that would prepare the new Bulgarian passports (with biometric data) which were designed to help us look like Europeans.
Officially, the procedure was frozen because of omissions in the offers. A phrasing of the kind is quite improbable considering the history of competitions of this kind - they are organised in a way that allows omissions to be adjusted purposefully. We would hardly reveal any secret by saying that it is exactly the adjustment of such details that brought a part of the Bulgarian financial elite to light.
In the last days of the previous week people familiar with the competition told the BANKER weekly that a new lobbyist intrigue had been in preparation. They implied that they would not leave the situation that way. Obviously, the Ministry of Interior felt a new scandal was about to emerge and decided to save the already ruining institution more troubles. So, this is the probable reason why we finally witnessed a delay of a competition because of omissions.
Let's remind that when the act was created in accordance with the European Union requirements and became valid at the beginning of last year, a substitution of the identity cards and passports was planned so that they would meet the European requirements. However, the new documents should have been already issued and it is not clear whether the European Commission will sanction the country because the deadline by which the new documents were supposed to become valid has expired. Of course, Bulgaria will again try to justify itself and will not forget to mention that Romania has a similar problem, too.
According to preliminary information that the BANKER weekly possessed even last week, as of November 16, 2007 when the deadline for submission of documents expired the following companies had applied: IBM - Bulgaria (no subcontractors), HP - Bulgaria (no subcontractors), GEMALTO - France (with Index, Enemona, Ekos Engineering and Nivel as subcontractors), Bundesdrukerei Gmbh - Germany (no subcontractors), Printec S A - Greece (with the Bulgarian National Bank Mint, Progress printing house, Contrax, Ecogarant EI, Kapelen, and Pritech Bulgaria as subcontractors), Allami Nyomda Nyrt - Hungary (no subcontractors), IPZS Instituto Poligrafico Zeiid dello Stato - Italy (with Capgemini as subcontractor), OSD Gmbh - Austria (no subcontractors), Sagem Defence Securite - France (with the BNB Mint as subcontractor), Lirex BVM, Telelink, OVD Kinegram, Siemens - Bulgaria (with Kapelen as a subcontractor), the BNB Mint, CNSys and Thales - France (no subcontractors).
According to art. 7, paragraph 2 of the Regulation on Special Public Procurement, by that date all participants had to present a written application for involvement, an investigation consent declaration, a list of subcontractors, as well as the subcontractors' participation consents and investigation declarations. Sources familiar with the organisation of the competition claim that a small part of the companies had met all the requirements within the deadline. What is more, more subcontractors were added to the lists and the names were changed after the deadline in violation of art. 3, paragraph 7. Some of the printing houses submitted their written consents several months following the submission deadline. Warnings about these and similar violations have been sent to the Ministry of Interior as well as the National Security State Agency. No response to the objections has been given until the competition date (April 7). However, obviously someone decided that might provoke a big scandal and eventually a decision for termination of the procedure was made. But whether or not this would have happened if there was no fire in the internal ministry is not clear.
Deputy Minister Yonov explained that the participants had been inspected in three aspects. There were most omissions in the first of them - the administrative one, which necessitated the termination of the procedure. Siemens - Bulgaria, Allami Nyomda - Hungary, the German state printing house - SAGEM, Defence Securite - France, Printec - Greece and GEMALTO - France were rejected in this category.
Not all of the companies have been subject to technical inspections and their financial offers have not been reviewed at all, the Deputy Minister added. All candidates have been informed about the termination and their omissions and their documents are now kept at the Ministry of Interior. When the 14-day appeal term expires, the procedure will begin again. However, this will delay the issuance of the new passports. The new European documents containing biometric data will be ready no sooner than March 2009 rather than the end of 2008. Still, this is not a surprise. In Bulgaria, plans are to be written, not respected.