State-owned Enterprise Gulps down Millions for Vehicles and Paychecks
The big one missing in the debate over the water crisis is Tsako Banchev - the executive director of the state-owned dam management company. He does not give interviews, does not comment on what is happening in Botevgrad or in Pernik, he has not taken a stand anywhere in the media. And this absence has an explanation: Banchev can hardly say anything. Not only about the condition of the dams but also about the activity of the enterprise itself.
In fact, in the wake of the water crisis, many remembered that in 2018 a special state-owned enterprise for dam management to the Ministry of Economy was decided to be created. BGN 500 million were provided to start the “emergency repair” of nearly 400 reservoirs which were listed to have been in very poor condition. I.e. it was publicly announced that they were dangerous for the population, the buildings and the infrastructure around them.
However, the rules of operation of the new "emergency" enterprise were not adopted until 2019. And in July this year it was enrolled in the Commercial Register. Tsako Banchev was appointed executive director of the enterprise, who(quite by accident, of course) was elected as a GERB municipal councilor in Pravets in the last elections (he was subsequently dismissed at his own request with the Municipal Election Commission decision of 12.12.2019 ). He is also the former manager of the Bebresh hydropower plant (HPP) near Botevgrad, related to Valentin Zlatev, which is currently being whirled in scandals. According to the enterprise’s rules of procedure, the Executive Director is appointed by the Minister of Economy. The Board of directors also includes representatives of the MoEW, the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works, the Ministry of Agriculture and Energy, plus a representative of the Association of Municipalities. There are 7 people in total, including the director. Who are these people, who are also appointed by the Minister of Economy, is clear from the Trade Register – both they and the Executive Director were listed as early as last July. These are: the Deputy Minister of Economy and the various ministries are represented by Iliana Todorova, Veselina Terziyska, Ivaylo Simeonov, Lilyana Dragieva and Karnobat Mayor Georgi Dimitrov. In fact, the appointments have been the last to be heard of this state-owned enterprise for months. It was not until October 2019 that Minister Emil Karanikolov’s response to a parliamentary question revealed that more than 130 employees were planned to work in the central structure and its eight territorial divisions at an average salary of BGN 1,800. Some of them have already been appointed - by October 30 employees were already working in the enterprise and by the end of the year it was expected that their number would exceed one hundred. Karanikolov's answer to the parliamentary question hinted that no dam in the country had yet been "transferred" to this enterprise for running. Although the municipalities had already asked to get rid of over 1,200 water facilities which they had no means to take care of.
What is the current situation? A check in the Commercial Register states that the sum of money in the column "Property value provided by the state and the municipalities" is still BGN 0. No one knows which dams are being run by the new state-owned enterprise. And it is completely obscure what is the activity the employees are engaged in and what are they paid for.
And they get their paychecks. The budget reports show that in 2019 the state budget has allocated BGN 4 million for the maintenance of the enterprise with BGN 1,4 million being earmarked for salaries and other staff remuneration. In addition, there is another BGN 0,5 million for insurance.
The only activity reflected on the state-owned enterprise site numbers only 3 (three) decisions, taken by the board of directors at meetings from September to the end of 2019. But they do not concern the dams, their emergency repairs or the rescue of the population at all. They are related to the apparently even more "urgent" necessity of buying 30 autos- with the explicit requirement that they be brand new. Plus a purchase order for laptops and 70 desktops - this is probably the numerical composition of the company currently hired. That’s it.
So the picture is this: there is a structure whose management team is full of GERB personnel, which is already swallowing millions for salaries, maintenance and extras. This structure must take care of those water facilities that are transferred to it. But for a second (calendar) year, no one has said which these dams are, let alone whether they are dangerously split or empty and what will be done for them. No one has said where, on earth, BGN 500 million for dams repair went – this has been our money, the money we all paid as taxes.
Do you still wonder why Tsako Banchev is missing from the TV screen and why he doesn't talk about the condition of the dams?