Bulgarian municipalities may get state help with high electricity bills – subject to checks

Municipalities in Bulgaria – many of them cutting back street lighting and heating of public buildings because of soaring electricity bills – may get state help, but only after an all-clear as to how they have been handling their public procurements.

Speaking on February 2 after Cabinet ministers discussed the electricity bill crisis facing municipalities, Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said that a working group involving the ministries of finance and energy would be set up to assess whether municipalities could get compensation for the increased electricity bills.

But, Petkov said, the Public Financial Inspection Agency would check on municipalities that applied for help to see if a lack of funds was not the result of bad practices.

He mentioned Sofia municipality, where it has been alleged that tenders for street lighting work had been awarded at fees hugely above market norms. The allegations currently are being investigated by various bodies, including prosecutors.

Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov, who took part in a news conference with Petkov after the Cabinet meeting, said that it would checked whether the municipalities had implemented programmes for energy efficiency of street lighting.

At the start of the Cabinet meeting, Petkov said: “What we see is that, on the other hand, it is said that there are no funds for important, critical things such as schools, lighting, kindergartens.

“On the other hand, we see that there is an opaque way of spending money on other items,” Petkov said.

“That is why I want to discuss how to link the two things – the municipalities that need funds and cannot meet their costs and potential inspections by the Public Financial Inspection Agency, to make sure that the spending of their existing funds and budgets is done in the most transparent way,” he said.

On February 2, EVN, one of the three energy distributors in Bulgaria, said that the implementation of the state programme for compensation for business customers for energy costs in December 2021 and January 2022 was underway.

The compensation would be reflected in invoices issued in February 2022, EVN said.

(Photo: John Mason/freeimages.com)

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