Formula sparks political row

Opposition leader Costas Karamanlis used a court ruling on a mathematical formula applied to the awarding of public projects to attack the government yesterday. On Thursday, the Council of State decided that the use of the formula contravened a European Union directive dating from 1993. Environment and Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou yesterday said there was «no problem» because the decision did not invalidate the use of the formula altogether. «I said publicly one or two months ago that we are looking at ways to improve the mathematical formula and are open to recommendations.» Karamanlis, on tour on the island of Lefkada, would have none of this. «We have been clamoring for years for changes to this depraved, sinful system… which created the present oligopoly in public projects. As a result, the cost of works has soared sky-high, the quality is bad and, of course, delays are great. Just today, (Papandreou) has been dragged forward to confess mismanagement…,» he said. The formula was devised to prevent excessive discounts from being offered under the previous system favoring the lowest bidders. Often awarded projects, they would then «discover» that their budgets fell short of the task. However, the formula has been abused by contractors who coalesce and offer a narrow range of bids to take advantage of it. The Council of State said that the formula method did not give bidders offering discounts, even excessive ones, an opportunity to justify their bids. Awarding public projects is such a contentious issue that construction groups are often labeled as pro-government or pro-opposition. Quite often, however, public projects are broken up into smaller ones to accommodate as many bidders as possible.

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