The civil monitoring which does not depend on political and administrative interests proved its stability as tool for corruption prevention and non-transparent management of public funds. It has been used for more than 20 years for infrastructure projects by TI-Bulgaria, as part of the international organization Transparency International. In addition to other benefits parallel monitoring has shown that it saves public resources.
The monitoring carried out for the period 2004-2014 in the construction of Trakya motorway managed to save almost BGN 6 billion to Bulgarian taxpayers.
Transparency International – Bulgaria has been implementing for six years another, even more integrated tool for public control. Integrity Pacts consider the specificities of Bulgarian legislature and the good world experience. The Integrity Pacts are concluded for large public procurements as a contract between three parties – an independent observer, contracting authority and tenderers.
On November 30th, 2015, Transparency International – Bulgaria and the National Company “Strategic infrastructure Projects” (NCSIP) concluded and opened for accession to tenderers the Integrity Pact in regard with the public procurement procedure for design and construction of Zheleznitsa tunnel Lot 3.1 Struma motorway.
This is how the monitoring of the procedures for the selection of a contractor, the conclusion and compliance of the framework agreement, the terms and quality of the infrastructure construction, the communication with the contractors and even the strengthening of the landslides started.
No contractor was selected in either the first or the second procedure. Pursuant amendments of the Roads Act (State gazette no. 30 of 15.04.2016) the Road Infrastructure Agency (RIA) is designated as assignee of the NCSIP. With the conclusion of an addendum to the Integrity Pact, RIA publicly engaged themselves with the Pact in the role of Contracting Authority.
The Road Infrastructure Agency relaunched the public procurement procedure for the Zheleznitsa tunnel. The tender is split into three separate lots – the tunnel itself and two road sections at the exits. According to the tendering documentation each bidder is allowed to bid for only one of the lots. After monitoring by the Public Procurement Agency over the changes in the documentation the Road Infrastructure Agency terminated the tender.
In October 2018, a scandal broke out for abuses of European funds in the company chosen to build the tunnel. In October 2019, the construction of the Zheleznitsa tunnel began, with a clear deadline for funding under European programs and clearly set deadlines and rules for the implementation of the activities and clarity that no activities can be carried out or funds reimbursed after the originally set deadline.
Six years later, the conclusions of the applied Integrity Pacts confirm that its serves as an effective tool for civil control. The political changes in executive power were the key factor that influenced significantly in the implementation of one of the most expensive infrastructure projects in Bulgaria. Politicians have not only changed the management of government agencies, but also influenced the concept of project management including engineering procurement.
The monitoring of the construction of Zheleznitsa tunnel showed that the additional studies and approvals of the technical design did not lead to a significant acceleration of the construction. Due to the lack of precise data and calculations for the volume of construction activities and materials, additional financial claims arose from the contractor. Due to the lack of precise data and calculations for the volume of construction activities and materials, the contractor request additional funding.
The approach to assignment of construction through engineering was relatively new in Bulgarian practice and is in coordinate with international standards and usually is used when you must choose designer and contractor and when there are short deadlines and there is not enough information for the terrain.
Landslides on the motorway, as well as the COVID – 19 pandemic restrictions affected the deadlines. The route of Lot 3 crosses the most active seismic zone in Bulgaria and the contracting authority had not prepared detailed geological exploration. The landslide processes have also delayed research and will delay placing in service all the three lots.
As party to the Integrity Pact, TI-Bulgaria signaled for the problem with the resolution of landslides and stressed that as one of the most significant risks for the timely completing of the Zheleznitsa tunnel.
The Integrity Pact for the construction of Zheleznitsa tunnel also served to keep the key parameters in the contracts as well as to inform the public for the potential risks and their prevention in the construction of Zheleznitsa tunnel project. As a tool for civil monitoring, the Integrity Pact optimizes the coordination and communication between contracting authority and the contractors, especially when there were disputes for the quality and on general construction works of the infrastructure project.