WATER TREATMENT AGENTS IN THE HEATING SYSTEM OF THE CLINICAL CENTER OF SERBIA (2018)
The procurement of water treatment agents for the heating system of the Clinical Center of Serbia is a classic example of the way in which the contracting authority favored a certain bidder by using discriminatory technical specifications, i.e. by referring to technical specifications that denote goods of certain production.
Namely, in the specific case, the contracting authority predetermined the chemical composition of the requested agent in the tender documentation, precisely listing all the components it had to contain.
Before the expiration of the deadline for submission of bids, an interested party first filed a request for clarification of the tender documentation and shortly after a request for protection of rights, claiming that the required technical characteristics favored a specific product (“HYDRO-X Boiler Compound”) that could be offered by only one bidder (“Ovex Engineering” Ltd. from Belgrade), which prevented all other bidders from participating in this procedure.
He stated that for the same subject of procurement, for the previous three years the contract was always awarded to the bidder “Ovex inženjering”, which is why it was necessary to change the tender documentation so that the technical characteristics comprise the functions that the water treatment agent should achieve in the district heating system, but without determining the specific chemical composition in advance.
However, the contracting authority denied all allegations of the interested party, pointing out that it did not discriminate against potential bidders in any way, and that the required technical characteristics were the result of long-term monitoring of water treatment results. The contracting authority also stated that it wanted to get the highest quality product in order to have the best possible protection for its plant. On the other hand, without prior verification of the allegations of the interested person and without checking the proposed evidence (safety data sheet) from which it could be clearly determined whether the ordering party copied the components of the favored product, the Republic Commission fully accepted the claims and explanations of the contracting authority.
As a result of this public procurement procedure, the contract was awarded to the bidder “Ovex inženjering” d.o.o. from Belgrade, which offered the product “HYDRO-X Boiler Compound” (as well as 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, but also the following 2019), which was exactly what the interested person pointed out in his request for protection of rights. In all cases where “Ovex inženjering” was awarded a contract for this subject of public procurement, the only acceptable bid was its bid, and the price it offered was close to the estimated value of the public procurement.
We are even more worried about the fact that this case is not alone, and that some other contracting authorities have favored the same bidder and the same product for years, as evidenced by the case study of public procurement of water conditioning agent in the district heating system of Obrenovac.