“Precise” tender of the Municipality of Foča awaits conclusion in the Office for Reviewing Appeals

Autor: Nikolija Bjelica Škrivan Aktuelno Društvo
11 minuta čitanja
Opština Foča (Foto: Direkt)

The Municipality of Foča is ready to pay around 200 thousand BAM for the preparation of a forestry basis for private forests in its area, and sources cited by Direkt indicate that the intended recipient of this tender is already quite evident. However, the outcome of the entire case is now uncertain, as the tender has reached the Office for Reviewing Appeals in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Opština Foča
The Municipality of Foča (Photo: Direkt)

The appeal is in the final stages of completion, according to sources from the institution speaking to Direkt.

Officials from the Municipality of Foča have confirmed to us that the further course of the procedure depends on the outcome at the Office for Reviewing Appeals.

Namely, the tender, announced by the Municipality of Foča through an open procedure on March 8th, requires the contractor to complete the work by the beginning of November this year. This involves preparing a forestry basis, a task typically undertaken every ten years.

Above all, the Municipality of Foča requires an experienced bidder, preferably someone who has previously undertaken similar tasks (for private or state forests) with a contract value of at least 189,000 BAM.

foča šume
The condition that “Dinarika” disputes

In the section concerning the economic and financial capability of the bidder, the Municipality of Foča strictly requires that the company has a minimum total turnover of 300,000 BAM, either in the last three years or since the establishment of the company if it is a younger firm.

In order to prove that they are the best bidders, they will have to provide certificates demonstrating that they have at least four forestry engineers, each with five years of work experience, as well as a license from the relevant ministry, which is also a legal requirement.

“Šuma plan” and No One Else?

“Dinarika”, a company also engaged in forestry project design, asserts that only “Šuma plan” can meet all these conditions and no one else, which is why it intended to apply for this tender. Due to the impossibility of participating, “Dinarika” has appealed to the Office for Reviewing Appeals of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In a statement to our portal, the director of “Dinarika”, Miroslav Rakita, argues that the tender set by the Municipality of Foča undermines fair competition.

“The conditions in this tender documentation limit us, designed as if you were seeking an employee with 25 years of age and 10 years of work experience. They require a company with at least one contract of this value. At this moment, only ‘Šuma plan’ fulfils this”, Rakita assures and adds that if the Municipality of Foča proves the existence of at least one more bidder who can meet their conditions, “Dinarika” will do this job completely free of charge.

In Republika Srpska, there are a total of four project bureaus holding the necessary license from the relevant ministry – the Faculty of Forestry, the Research and Development Project Center (IRPC) Banja Luka, “Šuma plan”, and “Dinarika”.

According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Water Management of Republika Srpska, the company “Šuma plan” has carried out the tasks of preparing forestry bases on private property in RS over the last five years.

“Even if the remaining three bidders, with licenses, unite and apply for this tender, we would not meet these conditions. We literally possess everything they request in the tender, except for that specified contract. We have warned the Municipality of Foča that with such conditions, there is no need to announce a public procurement; they can directly make a deal with ‘Šuma plan'”, says Rakita to “Direkt”, adding that it is incredible how even the Faculty of Forestry, with 20 PhDs, was disqualified from this job.

“According to this, even the Faculty of Forestry is not sufficiently qualified for the Municipality of Foča”, Rakita emphasizes.

For them, it would be acceptable if the Municipality of Foča announced a tender open to all license holders because public procurement itself, he interprets, represents a kind of competition.

“There is no such thing here because any competition has been disqualified from the start”, Rakita concludes.

As Direkt learns, the Faculty of Forestry will not apply for this tender either, as it has not prepared forestry bases in previous years and therefore does not meet the required conditions.

The Research and Development Project Center did not confirm to Direkt whether they will attempt to secure this job.

“We make decisions based on our available operational resources, ensuring not to jeopardize the established annual plan. We will act in the same manner in this specific case. Also, it is not common practice to publicly announce participation in tenders, which could certainly be misinterpreted”, stated in the response to our portal from IRPC.

Appeal Discouraged “Šuma plan” as Well

Duško Topić, the owner of “Šuma plan”, stated to Direkt that the company did not apply for the contentious tender, citing the appeal filed against the tender documentation.

He dismisses as absurd the claims that the Municipality of Foča tailored the tender specifically for him.

“The requirement of having completed at least one contract in the last three years is a condition that clients prescribe in at least 90 per cent of tenders in Bosnia and the region. We have not encountered a single case in FBiH, Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, and Croatia where this condition does not exist for these jobs. It is one of the most common conditions, given that these are specific, professional, and complex tasks”, Topić stated, adding that all companies from BiH and other countries can participate in the disputed tender.

“Just in BiH, there are nine companies that possess the required license and meet the specified conditions… I won't list and speculate about companies, but it can easily be verified who participates in these procurements and the sizes of those contracts… Just in BiH, there are at least five companies that have carried out or are carrying out the tasks of preparing forestry bases in the last three years and which, based on the value of signed contracts, could independently meet the mentioned condition – Forests of Republika Srpska – IRPC, Šuma plan, Wald-project, Bosnian-Herzegovinian Forests..”., Topić asserts.

On the other hand, Rakita refutes these claims, stating that only four potential bidders in Republika Srpska hold the required license from the relevant ministry and that those from the Federation cannot apply, such as Wald-project and Bosnian-Herzegovinian Forests.

However, Topić views the entire case as pressure on the Municipality of Foča to favour a company “that has no conditions and only has a mailbox at the address where over 200 companies are registered”, which “Dinarika” refutes as untrue.

All in Accordance with the Law

The Municipality of Foča states that its goal is to ensure the highest quality procurement while making the most efficient use of public funds.

“…Any adjustment of the procurement procedure to individual economic entities as potential bidders is not allowed”, they state in response to Direkt.

Foča
Foča (]Photo: Direkt)

In their response to the Office for Reviewing Appeals of Bosnia and Herzegovina, signed by Milan Vukadinović, the head of Foča, and seen by Direkt, they also mention that the appeal from “Dinarika” is unfounded.

Regarding the condition disputed by “Dinarika”, namely the completion of a contract of equal value, the head of Foča refers to discretionary rights.

“In this specific case, the contracting authority opted to set the above-mentioned condition to have qualified candidates/bidders available, who are exceptionally professional for performing such a complex and specific task within their registered activity”, the Municipality of Foča's response stated, explaining that only in this way can they obtain an offer from a reliable, capable, and competent bidder for this complex task.

“This condition is not restrictive or discriminatory and ensures sufficient competitiveness in this public procurement procedure”, concluded the Municipality of Foča.

The “Pratimo tendere” portal has also rated this procurement as high-risk for the same reasons and has assigned it a red flag.

They also mention a similar tender in the Municipality of Kneževo, which, according to their analysis, was aimed at “Šuma plan” based on the same principle.

At the same time, this portal notes a tender in “Hercegbosanske šume” in Kupres, amounting to 400,000 BAM, which is open to all bidders because the specifications are not as narrowly defined as in Foča.

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