STA, 7 August 2019 - The company managing construction of the new Divača-Koper rail track has annulled a public tender for the first of several bridges on the new track after weeks of very public controversy that has renewed concern about the mega project going off the rails financially.
"It has turned out that the cheapest bidder was not the best," Dušan Zorko, the head of 2TDK, told the press on Wednesday after the company determined the selected bidder had apparently forged its prior experience with the construction of such infrastructure.
A consortium led by Markomark Nival was initially selected to build a 170-metre bridge over Glinščica Valley. Its price, EUR 8 million, was significantly lower than rival bids by consortia led by Kolektor CGP (EUR 13.5 million) and Godina (EUR 14.3 million), but both have now been ruled as invalid because of excessive price.
Zorko said the tender would now be repeated as soon as possible. It will not be changed much, but 2TDK plans to impose a price cap. It also expects more builders to bid. "We had expected more offers, domestic and international. Unfortunately, there were only three."
The winning bid for the Glinščica bridge had originally been selected in mid-June, but it quickly became apparent things would not run smoothly.
One of the failed bidders reported noticing that an Excel spreadsheet form used to submit the bids had errors resulting in an incorrect final price, and then unofficial sources started questioning whether Markomark Nival, a little known builder, had in fact sufficient prior experience to build the bridge.
In general, Slovenian public tenders for construction projects tend to get bogged down in appeals and accusations that can significantly delay the start of construction works. The Karavanke tunnel expansion, for example, has been delayed by more than a year already as bidders fight it out among each other.
The popular perception is that the biggest construction industry players are adept at turning tenders in their favour, especially when they are up against foreign bidders.
In recent years two subsidiaries of industrial conglomerate Kolektor and the Murska Sobota builder Pomgrad in particular have been in the spotlight, having grown from mid-sized company into market leaders after the financial crisis bankrupted almost all major industry players.
Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek, a staunch advocate of the EUR 1 billion-plus rail project, said today she supported the decision of 2TDK to annul the tender.
"I stand firmly behind their decision not to succumb to the construction lobby," she said, adding: "I will not permit old practices of siphoning [taxpayer] funds."
Referring to the bid headlined by Kolektor CPG, Bratušek said three of the largest Slovenian builders had joined forces for the bid, which is "an indication of the creation of a monopoly and the desire to overcharge for construction services."
"Despite attacks targeting me, I will not let builders rig the system and offer prices up to 40% higher in public tenders. If necessary, tenders will be repeated."
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