Bulgarian PM fires three officials over electronic road tax ‘vignette’ fiasco

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov has ordered the dismissal of two top officials at the Road Infrastructure Agency and an adviser to the regional development minister because of the poor organisation of the introduction of the electronic road tax “vignette” system, the government information service said on January 5.

Vesselin Davidov, responsible for the electronic system for collecting fees for Bulgaria’s national road network, is being dismissed, as is Anton Antonov, head of the toll department, and Radoslav Nikolov, an advisor in the political cabinet of Regional Development Minister Petya Avramova.

Reacting, the head of the Road Infrastructure Agency, Svetoslav Glosov, told the media that the decision to fire the three because of the problems with the electronic vignette system was that of Borissov.

“It was not agreed with me,” Glosov said.

“On Monday we will analyse why the problems have happened. I do not think there should be any more resignations at this stage,” he said.

Glosov said that he did not feel guilty about the problems with the introduction of electronic vignettes.

“The Road Infrastructure Agency has many sectors, the vignette system is one of them, there are many others. That is why there is a member of the management board who is directly involved in this system,” he said.

Earlier on January 5, in a television interview, Glosov said that there would be a grace period up to January 15 for motorists who had not bought a vignette for their vehicles.

More than 80 per cent of the hard-copy vignettes were valid until the end of January, he said.

Glosov said that besides software problems, there also had been hacking attacks on the system.

People had abused the service to convert hard-copy vignettes to electronic ones, he said. This was not due to weak protection but to weakness in software development. This problem had been removed, according to Glosov.

He said that within a week it would be decided whether the contractor responsible for the introduction of electronic vignettes would be penalised.

The sale of electronic road tax “vignettes” began on December 17, ahead of the January 1 introduction of the system.

Soon after the system was introduced, it emerged that there were no self-service terminals at several border checkpoints, that motorists had difficulties finding sales points at fuel stations, and that in spite of the system being billed as offering users a choice of foreign languages, clicking on the “buy an electronic vignette” button took users only through to the Bulgarian-language version.

On January 3, the Road Infrastructure Agency announced at an emergency news conference that the system to convert hard-copy vignettes to electronic ones was being suspended because of numerous attempts to defraud it.

Borissov and Road Infrastructure Agency officials have said that these problems would be resolved, in some cases, by next week, and in others, by the end of January.



The Sofia Globe staff

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