Czech transport minister spends quickly to demand more funds

Since becoming the Czech transport minister, Pavel Dobeš has initiated four new road projects at the expense of priority projects

 | na serveru Lidovky.cz | aktuální zprávy foto: © ČTK, ČESKÁ POZICEČeská pozice

Several key stretches of Czech roads remain unfinished reportedly due to lack of funds. Since June, however, the Transport Ministry under the leadership of Pavel Dobeš (Public Affairs,VV) has awarded four new contracts for town bypasses that haven’t been approved by the government and, according to the server aktualne.cz, are 14 percent over the price target set by the Directorate of Roads and Motorways.

Dobeš has commissioned four new road projects that weren’t included in the budget  nor approved by the government    

Completion of the road linking Zlín in southern Moravia to the D1 motorway, building the final stretch of the motorway between Prague and Hradec Králové, the bypass around Frýdek-Místek in northern Moravia, and new road between Ostrava and Opava in north Moravia and Silesia were prioritized as the most important road projects in the Czech Republic in a report commissioned by the Ministry of Transport and the European Commission two years ago, but they have yet to be completed.

Nevertheless, since assuming the post in July, Dobeš has commissioned four new road projects, the most expensive of which are bypasses around the towns of Chrudim and Duba, projects that aren’t included in the budget of the State Fund for Transport Infrastructure and haven’t been approved by the government or parliament.

For those two bypasses and the reconstruction of roads between Harrachov and Vrchlabí in northern Bohemia, and Kunovice and Veselí nad Moravou in east Moravia, the ministry has committed to spend Kč 3 billion.

Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09) this week agreed to allocate an extra Kč 4 billion to the state transport fund after VV, the smallest of the three ruling coalition parties, threatened to vote against the budget if he did not consent. Dobeš’ argued the extra funds are required precisely to finish the aforementioned prioritized projects.

Public tenders - for selected few

The winning bids for the new projects approved since early July are on average 14 percent more expensive than the target price set by the Roads and Motorways Directorate (ŘSD), aktualne.cz reported Friday. The reason for the overinflated price tags is that the tenders were limited to only five firms, enabling the bidders to coordinate their offers and ensure a higher winning bid, it said.

In addition to the four new road projects initiated under Dobeš’ leadership, in August the ministry awarded contracts for works on the Prague ring road and further work on the R52 road south of Brno to two contractors without even holding a tender. The cost of the road from Brno to Rajhrad has increased by 20 percent.

The contracts for all six projects approved under Dobeš have been awarded to two companies, Eurovia and Strabag   

In June, the ministry had to withdraw an application for Kč 620 million in EU funds due to irregularities in the project documentation for the R52 south of Brno, which could have resulted in a hefty fine being imposed by Brussels. The ministry lodged a criminal complaint against unknown persons responsible in connection with the irregularities in the documentation.

The contracts for all six projects approved under Dobeš have been awarded to two companies, Eurovia and Strabag.

The ministry claims the new projects commissioned since July were planned in previous years and simply had to be realized: “We initiated the tenders for the bypasses around Duba and Chrudim before 2010 but we have published the information now with a delay,” ministry spokesman Martin Novák told aktualne.cz.

He also justified the tenders being limited to five companies on the grounds of a tight deadline: “It was necessary to issue a tender for the required works within the given timeframe due to the availability of funds,” Novák said.

The reconstruction of the roads near Harrachov and Kunovice is to cost Kč 465 million and Kč 358 million, respectively. Previously it was practice for the ministry to enter any works costing over Kč 50 million into the list of State Fund for Transport Infrastructure-financed projects for consideration by the government.