Court slams EU tender methods.

Author:Misser, Francois

The European Union's Court of Auditors have slammed the EU's tendering procedures, describing them as lacking in transparency. The criticism comes in the Court's latest review of public works contracts financed by the EU during the 1987-1993 period. It says that millions of ecus are at stake.

In as many as 50% of the cases, the court points out, technical specifications mentioned in the tender documents were inadequate. The court cites as an example a ECU28m contract for the construction of the Lusaka-Kabwe road in Zambia. The tender documents issued by the European Commission for this contract did not include any extensive topographic or geotechnical study, says the report. As a result, the execution of the contract was hampered by substantial changes, disputes over the quality of works, price revisions and compensation demands. The execution of an irrigation scheme project in the Gorgol area of Mauritania, worth ECU13.7m was also charactensed by serious disagreements over the revision of prices and other criteria not sufficiently clarified in the tender documents issued by the Commission. A similar situation emerged over a ECU23m rehabilitation programme of roads in Kampala, Uganda.

The court considered it "unacceptable" in each case that such tenders could have been launched despite the conditions stipulated in the contract being "vague, incomplete or contradictory."

Another case criticised by the court was that of the ECU14m Tunga dam project in Nigeria. Only the three lowest offers for the works were examined regardless of the quality of the others, because the consultants hired by the Commission were over-zealous in applying the rules employed by the Swiss based International Federation of Engineering Consultants instead of normal EDF procedures.

Contributing to this emerging pattern of inadequate regulation, throughout the period under examination the court noticed that different standards had been applied by the Commission to deal with bids. A case in point is the ECU56m project for the construction of the Isebania-Mukuyu and Sirari-Musoma roads in Kenya and Tanzania. None of the bids had been completed, however none had been rejected either. In a similar case, for the Faranah-Kissidougou ECU23m road project in Guinea-Conakry, none of the bids was considered as eligible and a new tender was launched.

The choice of companies who won the contracts is questionable, according to the report. In the case of the LusakaKabwe road, the...

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