Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov and Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova are ordering investigations into allegations that the Bulgarian capital city’s municipality has contracted payments for street lighting at hugely inflated prices.
The episode comes amid municipalities across Bulgaria cutting back on street lighting in the face of electricity bills that have tripled, with the national association of municipalities demanding that the state step in to help.
Sofia city councillor Boris Bonev, an independent and a founder of the Spasi Sofia (Save Sofia) NGO told bTV in an interview on January 30 that millions were being drained from the municipality through street lighting contracts.
Bonev alleged that the contracts that Sofia municipality had concluded showed prices varying between three and 77 times higher than market ones.
He showed documents for contracts with two companies, worth a total of 74 million leva.
Bonev said that an investigation by Spasi Sofia had found that two completely identical street lamps on opposite sides of a central city boulevard had cost, on one side, 5755 leva and on the other, 1587 leva.
“Our team did an experiment – we chose five items from the public procurement and bought them for 139.70 leva, while the municipality is paying 910 leva for them,” he said.
One line item cost 81 stotinki in a shop, while Sofia municipality was paying 17 leva for it, he said.
Spasi Sofia demanded the resignation of deputy mayor Kristian Krastev, whom it said was responsible for the contracts.
In a post on Facebook soon after Bonev’s allegations, Prime Minister Petkov pointed to the differing costs of street lamps, saying that this showed the immediate need for an anti-corruption commission with investigative functions.
Petkov said that a law reforming the anti-corruption commission was a huge priority.
“At the same time, the (Sofia) municipal administration tells us that Sofia did not have the budget to cover electricity prices and would cut public transport…
“When we clean up corruption, then there will be a budget for everything,” Petkov said.
He said that on January 31, he would order an investigation.
Sofia municipality said on January 30 that by order of Fandukova, the municipality’s internal audit would inspect the procedures for the selection of contractors for the repair and installation of street lighting.
The inspection would include the assignment of various activities and payments for them so far, the municipality said.
Quoted by the municipality’s press centre, Krastev said that the weighted average price paid by the municipality to each of the two companies responsible for street lighting in Sofia was approximately the same.
“This is because the overall assessment in street lighting contracts contains two elements – one is the prices for construction and major repairs, and the other – maintenance prices,” Krastev said.
He said that the trade strategy of one company was to give higher prices for construction and lower for maintenance of street lighting, and the other – the opposite – lower prices for construction and higher for maintenance.
Krastev said that at his request, annexes to the contracts had been concluded with which the companies had agreed to reduce prices where significant differences had been noted.
He said city councillors, including from the opposition, had taken part in consideration of the public procurement and had not submitted “any special opinions” while no company that had bid in the procurement had appealed against the outcome.
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