The telecom Vivacom is the author of the technical annex to the call for a public tender, worth 30 million Bulgarian levs, announced by the public Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) on December 30, 2016. This becomes clear from the metadata of a document (in Bulgarian) published on the BNR website.

“VIVACOM” is the trademark of the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC), whose ownership is still disputed between banker Tsvetan Vasilev and his former business partner, controversial lawmaker Delyan Peevski, along with the Russian bank VTB Capital, whose representative in Bulgaria is former Finance Minister Milen Velchev. The private company (Vivacom) is clearly getting ready to snatch the lucrative public tender contract which guarantees six million levs per year for a period of five years. Previously, a similar contract for 14 million levs was awarded to the transmission network operator NURTS, which is now part of BTC.  (NURTS Bulgaria is a joint venture between the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company, rebranded as Vivacom, and Cyprus-based international financial investor Mancelord Limited – editor’s note.)

The full name of the document is “Technical Specification for Participation in Public Procurement through an Open Procedure under the Law on Public Procurement with Subject: “Landline Analogue Broadcasting of Programs of BNR according to Decision №00761 of the Communications Regulation Commission (CRC),  from July 21, 2008, on the Territory of the Republic of Bulgaria”. It is part of a package of documents for the public tender with the same name and it can be downloaded and examined here (in Bulgarian). Officially, the document has been prepared by engineer Svilen Uzunov, Director of Directorate “Technology” and has been approved by the Director of the BNR, Alexander Velev. In reality, the document has been created through a copy of Microsoft Word 2010, personalized for Vivacom.

The document cannot be replaced, since its content and the time of publication are signed electronically by the certification service BankService. We have prepared, just in case, a video of the procedure for finding, downloading and checking the metadata of the document.

At this point, no bids have been submitted for this tender, Desislava Lilova, who has prepared all other documents related to it, told Bivol by phone.

Six million per year commission

What is the need to have a tender for such a long period? The previous NURTS tender was for a twice shorter period. The new Director of the BNR, Alexander Velev, has been at the post only for eight months and will be in office for another two years and four months. It would be logical that the contract’s time does not exceed his mandate.

A careful reading of the document, prepared by Vivacom, reveals other disturbing details. The technical specification includes broadcasting of the BNR program “Radio Sofia” all over the country, which is extremely difficult and unfeasible due to lack of available frequencies. There is also a requirement for “development of electronic communications networks that broadcast the programs of BNR to provide an opportunity for the introduction of digital broadcasting in the city of Sofia and other major regional centers in line with the government policy on this issue”. This exposes milking even more financial resources as to date there is no State policy for the introduction of landline digital broadcasting. This seems to rather be a self-initiative of the authors of the public tender in order to provide to the BTC a network in regional cities for landline digital broadcasting. The projected construction of two new regional centers -Pleven and Veliko Tarnovo – is also questionable as it will require new buildings, new studios, and frequency resources, among others.

Finally, the tender requires coverage for the entire country, which automatically eliminates smaller players who can provide only local broadcasting.

Everything for the comfort of #WHO, and for a long time

The new director of the BNR began his term with a scandal, after he fired prominent Bulgarian journalist Lily Marinkova, virtually the only critical radio voice as she was including in her talk show the taboo topics in Bulgarian politics and business. He declined to give reasons for his decision despite the strong protest of “Reporters Without Borders” that linked Marinkova’s dismissal with political pressure.

Once he moved into the BNR headquarters, Velev’s first deed was to lease a luxury car. Later, journalist Sasho Dikov revealed in his show “Just Dikov” that Velev has rewarded the Council for Electronic Media (CEM) for selecting him for the post by giving the watchdog another vehicle of the BNR as a gift.

Before becoming the head of the radio, from 2011, until 2014, Velev was Consul General at the Bulgarian Consulate General in Istanbul. According to Bivol sources, the administrative review of the work of the Consulate carried out by the Inspectorate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in November 2013, has established quite scandalous facts. Our attempt to obtain from the Ministry the report of this inspection was rejected on “classified information” grounds. It is a fact that Alexander Velev left the Ministry and diplomatic service shortly after the conclusion of the review.

 

The attempt to grant a lucrative, long-term contract to the private company “VIVACOM”, connected to Peevski, is the latest scandal in which Velev has become involved. Judging by his track record, it will hardly be the last.

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