Bulgarian Competition Watchdog Refuses to Probe Bombardier and GP Group in Aftermath of Bivol’s Publication

Nikolay Marchenko

The Bulgarian Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) is refusing to conduct an expert verification of facts published in Bivol’s investigation BOMBARDIER AND GP GROUP WIN PUBLIC RAILWAY PROCUREMENT FOR 200 MILLION THROUGH FRAUD. Representatives of the claimant, the consortium TKP “Plovdiv-Burgas”, alerted Bivol of this decision taken at a meeting of the CPC, convened to examine the case on April 18, 2019.

The project in question is a large-scale one, called “Railway Thrace“, and is for the rehabilitation of the railway line “Plovdiv-Burgas”, Stage 2. The project is financed with European Union (EU) funds under the Operational Program “Transport and Transport Infrastructure” in the programming period 2014 – 2020. The idea of the Transport Ministry was “to reduce by 40 minutes the travel time by train from Plovdiv to Burgas in less than two years”.

“We have identified the investigation by the site Bivol as evidence, but the facts mentioned in the article have never been verified. The CPC refused to call an expert and without such, it is difficult to deal with such specialized technical details.”

This is what representatives of the law firm “Horozov and Partners,” which represents the interests of the consortium TKP “Plovdiv-Burgas”, told Bivol.

How to become public procurement winning bidder with fake data

As Bivol wrote in January, a consortium between the subsidiaries of Bombardier, the Canadian technology and engineering giant, and the associated with the boss of Lukoil Bulgaria, Valentin Zlatev, company GP Group, has won the public procurement contract of the National Railway Infrastructure Company (NRIC). The NRIC is a State-owned company under the authority of the Ministry of Transport, Information Technology and Communications (MTITC).

This is one of the major NRIC tenders – for the design and construction of signaling and telecommunication systems on the Plovdiv – Burgas railway line for almost EUR 100 million or BGN 195.4 million, excluding VAT. GP Group is participating in it through the Plobur Consortium. The NRIC declared the Plobur Consortium the winning bidder on January 28, 2019, with a total score of 100 points and a proposed price of BGN 185 million, excluding VAT.

However, the references included by Bombardier Poland (consortium member) in the tender’s documentation for the “construction and putting into operation a GSM-R system” for the needs of the Polish railways are not true.
According to the requirements of the contracting authority, a project should be mentioned in the documentation to serve as а recommendation. As such, Plobur Consortium has listed “Modernization of the E30 railway line, Stage II. Pilot deployment of ERTMS in Poland in the section Legnica – Węgliniec – Bielawa Dolna”.

Bivol sent a written request to the Head of the Polish-Rail GSM-R Network Management Unit Gzegorz Wątkowski. He replied that BOMBARDIER TRANSPORTATION (ZWUS) POLSKA SP. Z.O.O, part of Plobur, had not participated in a tender for a GSM-R network implementation in the Legnica – Węgliniec – Bielawa Dolna section.

Meeting without defendants

As mentioned above, the lawyers of the consortium TKP “Plovdiv-Burgas” from the law office “Horozov and Partners” are also trying to prove inconsistencies between the information provided by Plobur and its real capacity. However, no lawyer or representative of Plobur appeared at the April 18 meeting, nor were there any representatives to the bidder ranked second – the “AAA Sdruzhenie” (Association), also known as close to some powerful people.

Global giant Alstom and AT Engineering 2000 are partners in this consortium. AT Engineering 2000’s owner, Iliyan Terziev, is the Chairman of the Bulgarian Construction Chamber. A publication by the site Mediapool describes him as a person close to controversial lawmaker and media magnate Delyan Peevski.

The claimant’s representatives asked to be provided with the documents from the technical offers of the other two participants (Plobur and “AAA Sdruzhenie”), which they had not yet examined on grounds of the existence of not only “legal interest”, but also of a “public one” (in the light of the allocated financial resource).

According to them, the consortium TKP “Plovdiv – Burgas” had been improperly disqualified as neither the top nor the second ranked bidder has the capacity to implement the project described in their bids.

Only a representative of the contracting authority – the NRIC – attended the meeting and her sole task was obviously to “challenge” all the complaints of the claimant.

Without any hesitation, the woman presiding the CPC meeting announced that she was not going to consider any request by the claimant to provide documentation.

“We have not been given separate documents regarding the GSM-R system on the grounds that there has been a confidentiality statement with a copy, which we also do not have,” the “Horozov and Partners” lawyers commented for Bivol. According to them, there were five to seven folders with tender documentation of which they had not received documents on Bombardier Poland current projects as well as some of Plobur’s technical parameters as a consortium that has not yet proven to have any experience in building the required cable-optical systems such as GSM-R.


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