THE SALE OF TENDER DOSSIERS IS A PROFITABLE BUSINESS
There have been so many public debates and scandals provoked by the Public Procurement Act (PPA) that nobody seems to pay attention to them any longer. The only exception are Bulgarian companies which, according to the latest amendments to the act made in the spring of 2002, should have some privileges. Most of the bonuses, however, are negative, at least for the present.One of the points that causes frequent objections by the participants in public procurement procedures is the unspecified price of tender dossiers. The issue was raised by the Bulgarian Association of Information Technologies (BAIT) back in the autumn of 2001, when the amendments to the PPA were discussed in public. However, law-makers neither paid attention to the requests, nor set up rules for the formation of these prices. As a result, the only thing that the respective department has to do is to fix a price for its tender application forms.It's illogical to sell documents for printer delivery tenders at BGN100, BAIT members say. And this is something that happens quite often. Departments that invite analogic procedures are unable to explain the differences in the prices they announce. Practice shows that these prices fluctuate within a wide range - BGN100, BGN150, BGN200 and even BGN300. The highest level was nailed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when it invited a tender for delivery of computer equipment in 2002.A bright example is the invitation (published in the Official Gazette on January 14) for a procedure organized by a subsidiary of the National Electricity Company. The procurement refers to renting computer equipment (52 personal computers, 15 servers and 28 printers) for a 3-year term. The competition will hardly impress many companies in Bulgaria. One reason is the fact that in three years, when the equipment is submitted back, it will be extremely cheap. Nevertheless, those willing to take part in the competition will have to pay BGN120, VAT excluded, for tender dossiers. Many companies that have experience in PPA procedures have been warning that departments have started to improve their tactics to obtain profit from the sale of tender dossiers. For example, a tender is now divided into several smaller procedures. Then, the applying companies are forced to pay for several sets of tender dossiers even for one single project. Besides, the assigner also insures himself against possible legal delays. Because a possible appeal would only delay the single procedure. It's curious that the Agency for Telecommunications and Information Technologies at the Ministry of Transport published a series of six invitations in 2002. According to businessmen operating in this branch, all of them could have been part of one single tender. Each set of documents cost BGN150, however, and the whole set of tender dossiers could be had at BGN900. In case that ten companies take part in this tender, the agency receives BGN9,000.Maybe the institutions are trying to make up for the losses resulting from the public procurement? If this is true, what has happened to the Government's intentions to use the Public Procurement Act as an instrument to support the small and medium-sized business?