TASR, Teraz.sk, 11.09.2014

Suspected PPP Analysis Forger Linked to Broad-gauge Railway Tender.

Bratislava/Vienna, September 11 (TASR) - Czech company Valbek CZ, whose Slovak subsidiary is part of the winning consortium in a tender for carrying out a study concerning the possible construction of a broad-gauge railway from eastern Slovakia to Vienna, has a former chief of the Transport Ministry's PPP projects department in its ranks, Plus Sedem Dni weekly magazine reported on Thursday.

      According to the weekly, Peter Havrila is Valbek CZ's director for Slovakia and Central and Eastern Europe. Plus Sedem Dni notes that a person with the same name has been mentioned by the media in connection to a police investigation into the alleged manipulation of an analysis into the profitability of PPP projects for motorway construction. The original analyses stated that the motorway stretch between Martin (Zilina region) and Presov would be overpriced by €500 million if PPP projects were applied. However, the Transport Ministry's analysis stated later that the project would be less than €30 million more expensive when compared to other ways of funding.

      The Slovak subsidiary of Valbek CZ is part of the winning consortium along with Bernard and Obermazer that should be commissioned to draw up a study into the feasibility of constructing the broad-gauge railway. The tender has been suspended due to a complaint by a rival bidder, however.

      "The Austrian Federal Court informed us that it received an objection against the result of the tender on August 29. We believe that a decision will be made soon so that the tender may be completed in the near future," TASR was told by Viktor Plank, project manager of Breitspur Planungsgesellschaft.

      The appeal was filed by a consortium of ILF, Werner Consult and Reming Consult, Reming Consult general director Slavomir Podmanicky told TASR earlier this month.

      According to information obtained by TASR, two companies owned by the same parent firm featured in two competing consortiums. More specifically, Valbek s.r.o. is part of the victorious consortium and at the same time a subsidiary of Valbek CZ. Both the latter company's website and the Trade Registry reveal that the company has ownership li nks with PRODEX, which was part of an unsuccessful consortium along with Schimetta and Stoik.

      PRODEX on its website claims that it is a specialist in rail construction. Its managing director Lubomir Turinic told TASR that he is disappointed with the tender, but he doesn't expect to cooperate with the winner.

The tender has also been criticised by construction experts

      "It's strange that a consortium featuring Valbek s.r.o. was able to win [the tender]. According to my information, this company hasn't anything to do with rail construction and it hasn't prepared any rail construction project before," Dopravoprojekt general director Gabriel Koczkas told TASR.

      The Bernard-Obermayer-Valbek consortium won the tender with a bid of less than €6 million. Unsuccessful bidders indicated that they were considering an appeal due what seemed to them to be an excessively low price and one very similar to another for a preliminary study drawn up by Roland Berger in 2011. The current document should be far more comprehensive, however.

      Attorney Jana Martinkova from Advocatus Martinkova sees a risk in the doubts concerning the tender, which could lead to it being scrapped.

      "It's disturbing that such serious suspicions have emerged in connection to a project that involves multibillion investments by several countries. It would be better for the future of the broad-gauge railway project if the administrative court scrapped the tender or returned it to the organiser for further proceedings. If the project is approached with regard to the personal interests of a few individuals, I' m afraid that the declared benefits won't be achieved," Martinkova told TASR.
      Zeleznicna Revue magazine editor-in-chief Desana Mertinkova told TASR that funding may represent a significant risk for the project.

      "The new track should be completed in 2024. Its price could climb to €9 billion by then as the original price of €6 billion was considered vis-a-vis price levels in 2010. Around 400 kilometres of the new track should go through Slovakia, which, apart from this, will have to reconstruct the existing broa d-gauge railway line from Matovice to Haniska near Kosice with a length of around 90 kilometres. This certainly won't be paid for by the Austrians, Russians or Ukrainians. The operation and maintenance of the new track won't be possible without subsidies either," she said.

      The study was commissioned by Vienna-based company Breitspur Planungsgesellschaft, which is managed by Austrian, Ukrainian, Russian and Slovak rail companies. Slovak rail company Zeleznice Slovenskej Republiky (ZSR) has confirmed that the selection process is entirely in the hands of the Austrians. The tender had to conform with Austrian legislation and regulations, and the announcement concerning its organisation was published in the European Public Procurement Bulletin.