FOREST GROWING AND PROTECTION IN FRUSKA GORA NATIONAL PARK (2020)
The public procurement in question is one of the four procurements conducted by the Public Enterprise “Fruska gora National Park” in 2020, in which the bidder “Bonik team” from Beocin was favored. When compared to numerous similar examples of non-competition, the specificity of this procedure is reflected in the fact that the contracting authority concluded a framework agreement with this bidder, although the bidder did not meet the additional condition in terms of staff capacity. The tender documentation required the bidder to have two employees trained to work with a grass trimmer and a saw for each of the five parties, and the bidder “Bonik team” submitted employment contracts for 11 persons as proof of fulfillment of this condition. The problem is that 9 of these 11 contracts were invalid at the time of submitting the bid.
Our doubts that this is not an accidental omission of the contracting authority during the expert evaluation of bids are confirmed by the fact that “Fruska gora National Park”, only two and a half months later, in another procedure (land preparation services for nursery gardens) once again awarded the contract to the same bidder. And once again this bidder did not meet the additional condition, this time in terms of technical capacity. In that procedure, in order to prove that he had a suitable bulldozer, this bidder submitted a lease agreement concluded seven months before the lessor actually became the owner of the bulldozer that was the subject of the lease.
In the above examples, the bids of the “Bonik team” had to be rejected as unacceptable in accordance with the PPL, but despite this, the contracting authority in both cases awarded this bidder a contract / framework agreement. At the same time, in the procurement of forest growing and protection services, the framework agreement for all five parties was signed at a price identical to the estimated value of the public procurement – 19,384,305.00 dinars without VAT.
This fact weights even more if we take into account that Fruska gora has been suffering from intensive deforestation for the last few years and that the forest ecosystem is seriously endangered. In this regard, instead of paying special attention to the cultivation and protection of forests, a framework agreement for these services is awarded to a bidder who does not meet the additional conditions for participation in the public procurement procedure. The purpose of prescribing additional conditions is precisely to ensure, in accordance with the specifics of the subject of public procurement, the participation of those bidders who are able to better implement a specific public procurement contract. On the contrary, in the analyzed examples, the framework agreement is concluded with a bidder who failed to prove that it can provide the requested services.
In relation with the above, the findings of the State Audit Institution (SAI) are particularly interesting regarding the manner in which the contracting authority formulated an additional condition of staff capacity in the procedures in which “Bonik team” participated and those procedures in which this bidder did not participate. As stated in the SAI report, the audit found that in four public procurement procedures during 2020, in which the “Bonik team” appeared as a bidder, the contracting authority required only employment contracts as proof of fulfillment of the additional condition of personnel capacity. And in all these procedures, the contract was awarded to this particular bidder. On the other hand, in other public procurements in which certain personnel capacity was also required as an additional condition, and in which this bidder did not participate, the contracting authority required M forms as well in addition to the contract (M forms are related to mandatory social insurance where every change in employee’s work status is noted).
Of the four procedures in 2020 in which the contract was awarded to the bidder “Bonik team”, in two procedures this bidder was the only one to submit a bid, and in the other two procedures another, fictitious bid was submitted, in order to create the illusion of competition.
Everything we have stated shows that the market in Serbia is divided and that in many areas it is known in advance to whom the contract will be awarded. The consequences are a complete lack of competition and a significant outflow of budget funds. In such circumstances, the realization of the principle of “best value for money” is practically impossible.