Scandal over possible theft in public procurement in Abkhazia
Theft in public procurement in Abkhazia
During the purchase of equipment and materials for the needs of the state energy company Chernomorenergo tens of millions of rubles were stolen, Abkhaz opposition leader Adgur Ardzinba claims. President Aslan Bzhaniya subsequently instructed law enforcement to determine the veracity of theft in public procurement in Abkhazia.
Ardzinba also had documents backing up his claims at a specially-convened conference. The documents showed a government-approved cost estimate that was subsequently used to purchase consumables and equipment for the energy industry.
Initially these documents were not published in the public domain and were in fact classified. According to Ardzinba, he obtained them through “honest people working in government agencies.”
- Op-ed: Private sector is the only solution to Abkhazia’s energy crisis
- Free electricity trade in Armenia: what does it actually mean?
- Abkhazia preparing to adopt a law on foreign agents
According to the opposition leader, Chernomorenergo was forced to sign a contract for the purchase of all the equipment at the prices indicated in the estimates.
“For example, the estimate indicates the so-called “corner”, which in Abkhazia costs about 260 rubles [about $4.30] per meter, and in this estimate the price is 514 rubles [about $8.5],” Ardzinba said.
In total, there are seventy figures in the estimate he presented. For each of them, according to Ardzinba, is up to three times as high:
“Due to an accident on the Achguara line, because of which the whole country is sitting without electricity, they managed to inflate prices by at least 30%. This is 30-40 million rubles [about $500-700,000] excluding VAT. And if we take into account that everything that is supplied from Russia must be minus a VAT of 20%, then we will generally get to 50 million [about $800,000].”
The accident on the high-voltage line “Achguara” occurred at the end of October, after the Minister of Economy Kristina Ozgan officially announced the completion of repairs to replace the wires. A little more than 100 million rubles [about $1.5 million] were allocated from the country’s budget for the entire project to repair Achguara.
President Aslan Bzhaniya summoned the heads of law enforcement agencies and gave them fifteen days to verify the information provided by the opposition.
The curator of the energy industry, Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Christina Ozgan, who is the first to come under suspicion of embezzlement, is now at talks in Moscow. But he says that as soon as he returns, he will comment on all the accusations made to the state news agency Apsnypress.
In the meantime, law enforcement agencies are just starting to investigate whether the theft was committed or not, and a “people’s investigation” is already in full swing on social networks.
For example, the popular blogger Leuan Lagulaa says that he tried to independently determine the market value of the “grounding clamp ZPS-100-3V” indicated in the estimate.
“450 of these clamps cost the country 284,000 rubles [about $4,700]. Each of them cost 632.52 rubles [about $10.4]. So, I found the clip in a price range of 123 rubles to 200 rubles apiece [about $3] . In total, for 450 pieces they would have spent a maximum of 90,000 rubles [about $2,500], and not 284,000,” he writes.
Lawyer Said Gezerdava focused not on a single case of theft, but on the procurement system itself, which makes such theft possible:
“We have a monstrously outdated legislation on public procurement. The main document, the law “On the supply of products and goods for state needs”, was adopted in 1994 and since then it has never been amended. There is no need to even explain how outdated this document is. About seven years ago there was a discussion of a draft resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers on public procurement, and when it turned out to be more difficult to get through than they anticipated, they gave up.”
The Criminal Code of Abkhazia does not contain special articles for crimes in the field of public procurement, such as in the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation under “Abuse in the field of procurement of goods, works, services to meet state or municipal needs”, “Bribing a contract service worker, contract manager, member of the procurement commission” or “Knowingly false expert opinion in the field of procurement of goods, works, services to meet state and municipal needs.”
Theft in public procurement in Abkhazia
Toponyms, terminology, views and opinions expressed by the author are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of JAMnews or any employees thereof. JAMnews reserves the right to delete comments it considers to be offensive, inflammatory, threatening or otherwise unacceptable