A €76 million worth tender the government opened for bids 10 days ago, with a rushed and questionable procedure, has failed to attract any suitable bidders. The call for bids for reconstruction of buildings collapsed during the November earthquake will now reopen on Friday, as companies who bid the first time around did not meet the criteria. This call, too, will only be open for 10 days.
On March 16, the government opened several public procurement procedures for the reconstruction of houses, dorms, and schools affected by the November earthquake. The total value of these tenders amounts to €76 million.
According to public information on Open Data Albania, a 5.4 million ALL procurement for the reconstruction of houses damaged by the earthquake, a 1.2 billion ALL procurement for the reconstruction of dorms and schools in Tirana, and 7 smaller procurements for the reconstruction of schools and houses in Kurbin, Lezha, Kruja, Durrës, Kavaja, Rrogozhina, Vora, and Shijak, are planned.
The government applied a so-called ‘restricted procedure’ for these tenders. This procedure takes place in two phases: a public call for bids, and a selection phase. Legally, each phase unfolds over at least 20 days.
In the case of the above tenders, however, the government allotted only 9-10 days for the public call for bids. With the country having come to a financial halt due to COVID-19, bidders would have a much harder time applying. Cutting the time available to apply in half could only exacerbate this.
According to the law on Public Procurement, for PPPs whose value exceeds 1 billion ALL the government must also announce an international call for bids. A 9 day deadline would make it nearly impossible for any international company to see the call, assess the risks of their investments, and place a bid.
The rushed procedures may be a way for the government to curtail competition in favor of pre-selected private companies who would profit off the largest construction project ever financed with public funds.
The choice of restricted procedure is also an odd one. The law on Public Procurement specifies that restricted procedure may be used when:
a) the respective good, service or work, having a rather complicated and special character, may be supplied, obtained or executed by economic operators, who possess the proper technical, professional or financial capacity;
b) It shall be economically more effective for the CA to initially examine the capacities and the qualifications of the interested economic operators and then to invite those operators who possess specific minimal qualifications to submit their bids.
Seeing as construction is not a specialized service, and there is no special need to specifically examine the qualifications of bidders, the above provisions do not apply in this case.