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Parliament House, Sofia, Bulgaria © Dennis Jarvis

Bulgaria’s government finds defence issues

17/02/17Defence

Bulgaria’s new interim prime minister, Ognyan Gerdzhikov, has said that the government has found that over half of last year’s defence procurement contracts were irregular, with some being examined on suspicion of fraud.

After taking over ministries in January, the government launched investigations from the coalition that resigned after its candidate lost the presidential election in November.

Sofia has been accused by EU institutions of corrupt procurement practices in Bulgaria’s public sector. Despite declared political will by different governments since the end of communist rule in 1989, little has been done regarding ties between business and politicians.

Gerdzhikov said 45 out of a total of 82 defence ministry contracts signed in 2016 breached Bulgarian public procurement law and regulations.

For nine of these, he said, “indications for fraud and other serious shortcomings were established and they have been sent to the military prosecutors”, although he declined to give details.

Bulgaria ranks as the most corrupt EU member state on the Transparency International Index for 2016, keeping the country excluded from the EU’s passport-free Schengen area, amongst other sanctions.

Former defence minister Nikolay Nenchev has already been charged with misuse of his office for failing to implement a contract with Russia for the repair of its Soviet-era fighter jets, and for exerting pressure on a subordinate linked to a public procurement order for army uniforms that resulted in losses of about 250,000 levs (€125,000) to the ministry’s budget.

Nenchev denies the allegations.

Leaders in the Romanian cpaital, Bucharest, are also being monitored under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) set up as a condition of the countries’ EU accession ten years ago.

Pan European Networks Ltd