The bidding competition held by Athens’s urban bus service provider ETHEL to provide 600 new buses at a cost of just over 149 million euros was announced 18 months ago so that the company could renew its fleet and meet transport needs for the Olympic Games in 2004. The purchase was of 280 standard 12-meter diesel-fueled urban buses, 120 standard natural gas-fueled urban buses, 100 articulated diesel-fueled buses and 100 diesel-fueled midi-buses. Apart from the vigorous competition among the eight bus construction companies which showed great interest – after all, the commission was very attractive – there was also intense activity behind the scenes. The technical evaluation committee (comprising mainly senior ETHEL officials) decided in favor of the Italian company Bredamenarini for every type of bus, grading it well ahead of well-known companies that had already cooperated with ETHEL. But following investigation, an inter-party committee responsible for the conduct and implementation of the competition raised doubts about the company. The committee comprises four ministerial secretaries, a representative each of PASOK, the Communist Party and the Left Coalition and two representatives of the Electoral Council. The opposition New Democracy party expressed its opposition to the process two years ago and has systematically abstained from inter-party committees in all ministries. The Italian company that emerged as the favorite of the evaluation committee was eventually excluded from competition due to objections (it was facing survival problems in its own country and its name was connected with a case of fraud against the Italian State). On November 28, the bids for the competition were sealed and the companies with the best bids emerged. Unfortunately, all their prices are deemed to be excessive. The competition has reached its most crucial phase. There is little leeway for negotiation, but time is pressing.