Court rules against public tender loophole

In a preliminary decision which further added to the turmoil in the controversial public works sector, Greece’s highest administrative court yesterday found that a law easing constitutional restrictions on media barons winning state tenders was in breach of the Constitution. The Fourth Section of the Council of State reached its decision after examining suits by two construction firms against the awarding of state contracts to their competitors in 2002. The plaintiffs had argued that the companies which won the contract were compromised by the fact that major shareholders were closely related to top media entrepreneurs. Both contracts were awarded after being cleared by the National Broadcasting Council (ESR), part of whose duties is to examine whether laws intended to prevent businessmen from acquiring undue political clout, which would ensure lucrative state deals, apply to specific public tenders. Yesterday, the court found that a law – on the basis of which the contracts were awarded – which stipulated that the spouses and relatives of major media shareholders were exempt from the ban provided they could prove their financial independence from the shareholders in question, is unconstitutional. However, the court referred the matter for a final decision to the Council of State’s plenary session, which is expected to hear the case within the next few months.