Portuguese consortium cries foul play in metro tender

A Portuguese consortium of construction companies has filed for substantial sums of compensation, claiming it was unlawfully excluded from two Athens metro extension projects. The Zagope Construcoes e Engeharia-led consortium earlier this week filed two suits against the Attiko Metro company, the members of its board as well as the members of the bid evaluation committee, saying that its reputation was damaged internationally as the reason given for its rejection was that it did not possess the experience necessary for construction of small metro projects. But the two suits, which concern the metro extensions to Aegaleo and Haidari to the west and to Aghios Dimitrios and Hellenikon to the south and are slated to be heard in April 2007, are of additional interest. They reveal that the Environment and Public Works Ministry hastened to pick two provisional winners of the tenders for fear of loss of European Union investment subsidies. Indeed, an Athens court had previously rejected two injunctions filed for by the Portuguese consortium, arguing that a definitive winner had to be declared by December 23, or the subsidies would be lost. And the ministry did announce Greek construction groups Aktor and Terna as provisional winners of the two tenders in early December. Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias had then expressed satisfaction that the assignment of the projects had been made possible after the rejection of no less than 44 injunctions and appeals to the European Commission. For the Aegaleo-Haidari extension, three Portuguese companies are asking for compensation of 70 million euros from Attiko Metro and 3 million euros from each of the members of the board and of the evaluation committee for «moral damage inflicted maliciously or by gross negligence.» Separately, four Portuguese companies are asking for compensation of 94 million euros from Attiko Metro for their exclusion from the Aghios Dimitrios-Hellenikon extension project, and an additional 4 million euros from each of the members of the board and the evaluation committee. The ministry and Attiko Metro claim that all lawful procedures were observed, despite the fact that in three of the four tenders for Athens metro extensions, the same four companies had been picked. A certain climate of suspicion has been exacerbated by charges that the customary discounts offered by the winners of the tenders were too low – around 4-5 percent.