Operational Programme “Environment” has the lowest absorption of EU funds compared to other programs. The reasons are “poor planning and forecasting”, but also “conflict of interest and other affiliations with certain contractors”, “pressure” and “coercion” over employees at informal meetings with representatives of contractors. There is also evidence for these claims – audio and video materials. The information is from a report of DG OPE to the former Minister of Environment and Water Emil Dimitrov nicknamed “Inspector”, which our editorial office has.
The target of the rapporteur, acting CEO of OPE Gergana Grozdanova are several large concentrations of projects in the same companies:
- Companies and associations of Aglika Pavlova Georgieva and Dimitar Videnov Georgiev (“Balkanika” and others) have signed contracts for projects for nearly BGN 96 million.
Dicon Group Ltd.
– signed contracts for projects for BGN 27 847 684
- BT-Engineering Ltd., signed contracts for projects for BGN 13 052 582
– contracts for projects for BGN 7 298 521
Thus, only these four companies have collected BGN 130 million from projects totaling BGN 335 million.
“The participation of the same contractors who prepare and are responsible for strategic documents is impressive, as a result of which measures under the program are implemented and significant resources are absorbed,” the report states.
A check of the BRRD in the UMIS system found that in the same project subcontractors are simultaneously “Balkanika” and “BT-Engineering” (and the related “Alara 2000”) or “Balkanika” and “Ecosol”. This is the situation with several identical projects for composting plants in Rakitovo
As for “Dicon Group”, it seems that it is not part of this ring of companies, but acts in other configurations, absorbing money under projects of OP “Innovation and Competitiveness”.
The report also mentions the Association “Science for Nature” with BGN 7 458 941. under the priority axis “Biodiversity”, where there was chaos in the award of public procurement.
Conflict of interest and pressure on employees
As an example of conflict of interest and pressure on officials is pointed out the person Denis Botev Tabakov. He is the son of the owner of BT-Engineering Botyo Tabakov. According to the report, Denis Tabakov took an active part in meetings with the MA of OPE, and according to information from officials responsible for the projects of the municipalities of Vidin and Asenovgrad, they were “forced to comment on problems and give options for solutions to informal meetings with a Deputy Director General in the presence of the aforementioned person.” The report is accompanied by evidence, including recordings of meetings where experts in apparent conflicts of interest exert pressure when seeking solutions before contractors.
The same Dennis has a contract with subject “Evaluation of project proposals” totaling BGN 29,190. and has participated in the evaluation of WSS projects in Sliven, Silistra, Pernik, Vidin, Plovdiv and Dobrich. But the main activity of his father’s company is under the priority axis “Waste”.
BRRD sent a request for comment on these allegations to the official email of the “BT-Engineering”, but received no feedback. This is what we received after the publication and at the end of the article we publish the opinion sent by Denis Tabakov.
The Ministry of Environment and Water did not respond to our repeated inquiries whether the new caretaker Minister of Ecology was aware of the report and whether the findings were submitted to OLAF and the Prosecutor’s Office for investigation.
One-day associations absorb tens of millions
As noted in the report, the greatest concentration of projects and respectively of Euromillions is observed in companies and associations related to Aglika Pavlova Georgieva. It is noteworthy that eponymous associations are used for the projects, but with different EICs. Thus, DUZD “Balkanika Biogas” with UIC 177424272 Implementing a project for Design and construction of an anaerobic installation for separately collected biodegradable waste for the regional waste management system of Blagoevgrad Region for which it has received BGN 26 666 000.00 under contracts, and DZZD Balkanika Biogas with UIC 177413332 implement the project for Construction of an anaerobic installation for separately collected biodegradable waste on the territory of Burgas region under which BGN 24,451,427.00 were contracted. Thus, only two associations absorb BGN 50 million.
This number with the associations of the same name does not apply for the first time. A check of the BRRD detected four associations with the same name “Balkanika Art DZZD”, but with different UIC numbers: 176310892, 176506250 176361488 and 176608061. Two of these associations have successfully worked on EU projects in the previous programming period, but in a completely different area – a project “Isperih – Razgrad-Popovo: A Road of Ancient Cultures and Traditions
” and three projects for marketing and advertising, creation and promotion of innovative cultural events of tourist products in the municipalities of Stara Zagora, Stamboliyski and Yambol.
The common thing between all these “balkaniki” is that the leading one is the company “Balkanika Energy” AD (formerly “Balkanika Engineering” AD), in which the main shareholder is Aglika Pavlova Georgieva and the minority is Dimitar Videnov Georgiev. In the management of the company is also his son Viden Georgiev, who is the husband of Aglika. The company specializes in the construction of biogas and biomass plants, but also other renewable energy solutions.
In two of the projects for composting plants in Blagoevgrad and Sandanski, “Balkanika Energy” is a partner in DZZD with “Mega Hydrostroy”, involved in noisy scandals with absorption of EU funds under OP “Regions in Growth”. According to Zov News, the company It is actually controlled. by Doko Yordanov from a large Roma family in Cherven Bryag. Doko Yordanov confirmed to the website that he had already supported the former mayor of Cherven Bryag Danail Valov and was the head of the activities in the company, which according to documents is owned by a relative.
Before the golden rain of euro millions fell on “Balkanika”, Aglika with the maiden name Kehayova invested in two companies for fast loans in Pernik – “Nova Credit” and “Finance Invest – 88”, according to a check in the Commercial Register. In addition to loans, her partners Plamen Boyanov and his son Anton are engaged in gambling business.
The other partner in “Balkanika” Dimitar Videnov Georgiev However, it has much more interesting business connections. As early as 1991 he founded “Vector International” Ltd. together with bankers Alexander Velev and Rumen Nanov – heads of the first bank that failed during the transition “Agribusinessbank”.
Rumen Nanov is also behind the company “Regent Capital”, which was associated with the attempt for non-transparent acquisition of the pension fund “Doverie”. The other members of the management of “Regent Capital” are Bulgarians and Austrians, who are also related to the United Capital PLC of former NMSS MP Dimitar Lambovski. A connection between Nanov and Lambovski is also found in the company “RZ Metal”. There, Nanov was a manager with Austrian Franz Ferringer, who is also the owner of the company through Industry Consulting, and was also a director at United Capital PLC.
This indirect link between the successful biogas plant company and Lambovski is important because of what was heard in a recently leaked conversation between the former banker and the former head of BDB Stoyan Mavrodiev. It discusses energy projects for the production of electricity from biomass, to be financed with loans from BDB and to divert money from them through a rebilling scheme.
M: My friend, I am open to working together on any topic. If I think of something that comes from me as a project or idea, of course I will take initiative and call you to act on it. If you have any ideas and projects, too.
L: Both of them. There are those who are very fast. For example example Biomass
M: Let me work them. No problems
L: With you it’s in your prerogatives, how much, I think up to three you can
M: We are 2.5 million euros, we can make the decision
L: But there are two subjects.
M: On board
L: Yes, but it can be on two subjects. Two and a half so
M: Up to BGN 5 million per single loan
L: But I have one that’s for you. And very literate, when we talk to experts…
M: It is for these energy
L: Yes, but
that’s the only thing that’s going on right now.
M: We can do two times five
L: No, we can put the British manufacturer in a consortium
(whispered not understood)
L: My point is, it’s an absolutely fast peyback, your bench is for 2 years. Even if we keep it, I told you then to sell it, it still makes sense to pay back the loan.
M: If there is a bench for two years. That makes sense.
L: It makes sense because the preliminary contract is at 460 leva with VAT per megawatt hour, and currently it is being bought at 70 leva. Conventional. Only from the biomasses because of the environmental pollution the shit of thea breeders. So we as a contract… (not understood).
Or optionally we sign the contract, renewing this with CEZ, because it is a 20-year purchase agreement.
M: Yes, yes, that’s what’s important.
L: Small and that’s why it’s interesting because it can be easily funded.
M: I am telling you that if there are even more such projects with a contract with CEZ we can do two and three small projects. If you find me projects like that.
L: If you let me down the field and we get along, because… only biomass is currently convertible for funding. Biomass only. Wind, solar forget, hydropower, conventional
M: We do it, man. When I have the contract with CEZ, it is my collateral. We bet it in the bank.
L: Fact, by putting into operation
M: And it works
Austrians are immediately ready to give the equipment and there the difference invoicing through the British company
L: So the Austrians of the British, the British here. Any expert can say that this equipment costs so much. It depends on how many working hours, you know, that these working hours will be there as many as you need.
L: I mean, cars can do something to us, but they can’t do something about it.
M: It’s harder here. There are no counters here, ah-ha-ha.
L: There is, there is, how can there be (laugh) But I buy it with this condition, because the Austrians take the difference. Well, these are small projects, but small projects, here you pinch 4-500, there are 2-300. For example, we will have to talk to him personally for a lot of money. I haven’t seen him in 10 years.
* Underlines are from the editorial.
In response to questions sent by email, Aglika Pavlova denied knowing Dimitar Lambovski and claimed that she was not aware that “Mr. Lambovski or his control companies in Bulgaria or abroad are partners of companies and associations with our participation in projects with national or European funding.”
Meanwhile, it became clear that the European Public Prosecutor’s Office is investigating this case and it is the first from Bulgaria it has embarked on.
After the publication, Denis Tabakov contacted the editorial office and sent the following opinion, which we publish without editorial intervention:
- At present, I work in my father’s company – BT-Engineering Ltd., which specializes in projects in the field of environment, where we are mainly engaged in the design of infrastructure for waste management, and in recent years with technical assistance in the implementation of waste management projects. We have a lot of experience and expert potential, the company turns 30 years old this year. My father is a respected expert in the field of Environment, for many years he has been chairman of the Environment Committee of the Chamber of Mines. We have a license for construction supervision, but in general this business does not go in our favor, because our approach is strict fulfillment of obligations and no unregulated relations with the Builders – which over the years has brought us not one or two problems with mastitis anointed companies. Strict adherence, in addition to conflict with the above, costs money – at least 3 people on the ground with serious qualifications for construction supervision, and competition also deals with 1 part-time person. As a result, our prices are uncompetitive and we lose most of the orders.
- Yes, I am indeed an evaluator on the part of OPE for the projects cited in the report. Accordingly, I have been officially invited by OPE for this work, I have submitted a CV, I have concluded contracts, I have done my job correctly and that is why I have been paid by bank. The salary is not 60 000 BGN per month (eh), it is not even a year – the report says 29 190, in my bank account the amount is 18328.43 BGN for the evaluation 11 projects). Given the amount of information you need to review in a small number of days, I think it’s relatively fair. At the same time, the financial analyses of water supply and sewerage projects are my sentiment from the years of my work in OPE and it was extremely interesting for me to look at them and go back to youth so to speak, so I am doing it. Under these projects, beneficiaries (or as they say in OPE – beneficiaries) are mainly water supply and sewerage associations, which in turn trade orders for construction works, supervisions, etc. My father’s company or I personally do not have A SINGLE CONTRACT WITH ANY OF THESE BENEFICIARIES. It is true that part of the report in which it is written that the projects of BT Engineering are in the General Assembly: Waste, where I have not evaluated any project
- Quote from the report: “It is not clear how the particular contractor is selected.” In order to make it clear to the author, she should familiarize herself with the selection procedures for external evaluators. The fact that it is not clear does not mean that there is an irregularity, corruption, conflict of interest or what I am actually accused of. It is in the interest of OPE to select evaluators who know what the evaluation of water infrastructure projects means, have experience in this and can do their job qualitatively and on time according to the current procedures. I have my references, I have my CV, my experience, my understanding of the evaluator’s function and I apply what I have in practice, I don’t see anything wrong with that.
- Quote from the report:The same person (Denis Tabakov) appears from a contractor BT-Engineering on 16 projects under priority axis 2 Waste …… as the signed contracts with this contractor amount to BGN 13 052 582. The author author of of the the report report has has shown shown his his misunderstanding misunderstanding of of the the visualization visualization of of the the UMIS UMIS databases databases and and cited cited a a figure figure that that is is simply simply ridiculous. You had to check this, the databases I think you understand them more than well and you can distinguish between a Project value (totaling all PPA contracts on this project) and a contract value. The large amounts of the projects are in the construction, not in the technical assistance/supervision/design. BT-Engineering’s contracts with projects funded by OPE and awarded under the Public Procurement Act by the specific beneficiaries are BGN 100-200-300k and although I would like to have such a turnover (and only from OPE) it is a chimera and maybe a goal for the future, and maybe just a dream. I started to calculate them, to give you a table, but I am afraid that the data will be taken out of context. The Trade Register and EUfunds are public, I assure you that our turnover is many times lower. Not to mention that the last 2 years we have cut more than half the staff and we are two years in a row at a loss and this is not because business is booming. Well, we smeared 10,000 leva from the corona subsidies, but these are the salaries for less than a month.
- Quote from the report– Denis Tabakov took an active part in meetings of the MA of OPE, duly documented with memorial notes and audio recordings of the meetings. Application…. memorial notes and recordings of meetings of the municipalities of Vidin, Asenovgrad. My father’s company is the contractor of 1. Construction supervision of WWTP Vidin (we are just finishing) 2. Technical assistance – providing experts to the project management team for the construction of a composting installation of the municipality of Asenovgrad. I think it is more than logical, even necessary, for a representative of the contractor to appear at meetings with the funding body, together with representatives of the beneficiaries. I don’t know what I’m accused of in this case. If we didn’t show up, we’d be guilty of that. And the video recorded in the report is most likely from a meeting of the Municipality of Asenovgrad with the MA of OPE on November 26, 2020 (I remember it because the meeting the day after my birthday), in which I I explain to OPE that when they have evaluated the project of the municipality (I understand from this) they have placed orders under the Public Procurement Act (described in the so-called Implementation Plan) that are not legal. We informed them that if the municipality does as OPE has provided (construction works + delivery of part technological on the same investment project – with one building permit if we have to go into details) then the municipality of Asenovgrad will violate the law and the same OPE (only that another department – Follow-up Control) will send them with a financial correction of 10-25% and the municipality of Asenovgrad should not assign as agreed with/by OPE. If this qualifies as “forcing and commenting on problems” then yes, I am guilty – we want to do our job and give meaningful and lawful advice to our clients on the implementation of projects.
Photo: OPE. Minister Emil Dimitrov opens a new composting plant.
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