After the Chinese companies on the Počitelj Zvirovići section, where the tender lasted for years, a replay is taking place in Kvanj, where two Chinese companies responded to the repeated tender. One was building the Pelješac Bridge.
The highway through Herzegovina is the slowest section in the country, and one tender here lasts for five years.
The most recent example is the Kvanj-Buna section, which is entering the fourth year of the public search for a contractor, who by all accounts would have to be from China.
The Chinese are getting involved in business in Herzegovina, symptomatically, after the Čović Mostar fair gave them a ticket, that is, after they were partners of the same (April 2019).
By which route the Chinese arrived in Herzegovina is supposedly known. From the circles of domestic contractors, we learn that the entrance to Dragan Čović was through the Belgrade connection, and continued through the Minister of Transport and Communications, Denis Lasić.
Everything can be nicely tied together through dates.
On June 20, 2019, at the headquarters of PC Autoceste FBiH, a contract was signed on the construction of the highway on Corridor 5c of the Počitelj – Bijača section, Počitelj – Zvirovići subdivision with representatives of the companies China State Construction Engineering Corporation Ltd., Sinohydro Corporation Ltd. (China) and Power China Road Bridge Group Co. Ltd. (China).
With that contract, the Chinese enter Herzegovina. Symptomatically, everything happened two months after the spring fair where the partner country was China.
The tender for the Kvanj-Buna section, the cancellation of which we wrote about in the first article on the corridor through Herzegovina, was announced in December 2019 and cancelled in 2022.
The details were investigated by the European Anti-Fraud Office.
PC Autoceste FBiH boasted at the end of October that they had received a notification from the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) that the investigation into possible corruption, fraud or other illegal actions in the procurement of contractors was completed for the project “Construction of the motorway on Corridor Vc, Kvanj – Buna tunnel section”, in the tender that was announced in 2019.
In addition, they boasted that they had announced the tender even before OLAF proposed to them to announce a new one, which would have been last summer. After that, they continued to remain silent since what follows after that is not commendable. PC Autoceste subsequently did not boast that the new tender was also postponed.
Namely, according to our knowledge, the criteria were increased in order to eliminate domestic companies at the very start and give priority to foreign, again Chinese, companies. Domestic companies asked the European Investment Bank to reduce the tender conditions, and a solution was reached to reduce them, and the tender was postponed, claims our source.
Another thing that would be disputed is the questionable invitation for the conceptual and main project. Kvanj-Buna, as explained to us by those more knowledgeable, works according to the yellow FIDIC, which means that the investor, in this case, Autoceste, provides a conceptual design, and each bidder has his own main design.
It is symptomatic that on November 29, the investor announced a tender for the conceptual and main project of Buna Kvanj, and for this, they have already announced a “turnkey” yellow FIDIC, that is, the bidder/contractor has his own project, according to the concept provided by the investor.
In the earlier Kvanj tender, which was cancelled, 8 bidders submitted eight projects, according to the investor’s idea. The question is which conceptual and main project the investor is looking for, and eight of the bidders in the first tender that failed have their own conceptual project, those familiar with tender procedures explained to us.
After the Chinese, the Chinese
In the requalifications for the new tender announced last summer, two Chinese companies – China Railway Tunnel Group Co.Ltd. – China Overseas and Engineering Group Co. Ltd, and China Road and Bridge Corporation CCC Second Highway Engineering Co. Ltd, two Chinese state-owned companies.
China Railway Tunnel Group Co., Ltd. (abbreviated CRTG), boasted on its official website, is the largest engineering contractor in tunnels and underground engineering in China. At the same time, China Road and Bridge Corporation presents itself as a company that undertakes overseas projects assisted and financed by the Chinese government since 1958.
They reach BiH via the Pelješac bridge, which they built in the neighbourhood, and both companies are state-owned.
“China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) is one of the four major state-owned companies that have ventured into international markets. CRBC is mainly engaged in contracting, investing, developing, and managing roads, bridges, ports, railways, airports, tunnels, real estate, and industrial parks. With branches and offices in nearly 60 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and North and South America, CRBC has established an efficient and fast global network. CRBC is a key business platform for the overseas business of China Communications Construction Company [CCCC], one of the Fortune Global 500 companies”, they said.
At the bridge’s opening, a video message from Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang was also watched, showing how important it is for China to make inroads in the countries of the former state.
“If only someone had told me three weeks ago that the Chinese prime minister, a country that supports Russia in its attack on Ukraine, would address us”, wondered the Croatian president at the time, Zoran Milanović.
He commented that for the Chinese, the Pelješac bridge construction project was the entrance to European space, but he thinks that this space will be closed to them again for a while, considering the current geopolitical relations.
“This is not their project, it’s European money, our money, and the Chinese company won the job in a transparent tender, but I’m afraid that was the last time they won, considering the situation in world relations and geopolitics”, Milanović believes.
China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) is one of the two Chinese companies that appeared at the requalifications for the Buna Kvanj tender. When it comes to the Pelješac Bridge, they got the job ahead of the Austrian Strabag and a community of bidders consisting of an Italian and a Turkish company.
But let’s go back to Herzegovina
While traffic accidents with fatal consequences are often recorded on the Kvanj hill, the tender on that section has already started walking a long time ago, and it could soon be starting first grade. The following companies applied for the first tender, announced in December 2019, which was cancelled:
1. Consortium Ozaltin (Turkey) & Azvirt (Azerbaijan) &Hering (BiH) 77.722.222,15
2. JV China Second Metallurgy Group & Guizhou Transportation planing Survey (China) 81.774.604,00
3. China Road and Bridge Corporation (China) 89.318.789,61
4. Euro-asfalt d.o.o. (BiH) 90.431.047,79
5. Cengiz Insaat Sanayi (Turkey) 95.812.028,14
6. China Railway 14 th Bureau Group (China) 106.305.147,22
7. JV AGE Insaat ve Ticaret Anonimi Sikreti (Turkey) &LLC Stoyproekt (Russia) 146.277.437,91
It failed since the most favourable bidder was not up to the standards of the policy that is being built into the not-yet-poured Herzegovinian highway, which is becoming like Đekna.
In response to our inquiry about the investigation into malfeasance on the Kvanj-Buna section, at the event organized by the CCI director Voloder defended himself.
“In June of last year, when the Government appointed our Management, we found the contract 19 months after the submission of bids and the contract was not awarded to anyone. It was full of shortcomings in preparation and implementation because the bids were not adequately prepared. After some time, we managed to, after three months, implement the procedure and proposed contractors, and one of them who was dissatisfied sent this letter and complained that he was unfairly disqualified and that many actions were full of irregularities. The director wrote to OLAF, which joined the process and after some time had passed, we received a letter from the bank that they would not give consent to the contractor until the responsibilities for the mentioned irregularities were determined. When we asked them how long it would take, they said one or two years, and maybe longer. In the end, OLAF never gave a final judgment, and I then suggested to the Administration that we cancel that procedure and open a new one for the said share. I expect that we will soon get a contractor based on the new tender and that we will avoid all the irregularities that were in the old procedure”, he answered.
However, already in the southern section near Mostar, Voloder’s story falls apart. We learn from several sources that he involved companies close to him there.