OPINION

Time for the law

Since 1998, when the mathematical formula was introduced to determine the winners of public tenders, Kathimerini has maintained that the system was imperfect, that it resulted in improper competition, blatantly favored specific construction companies, and greatly increased the cost of public works. Since then the law and above all the ministerial decrees that have gone with it have ruled out any questioning of its results and have led to collusions of interest, putting public works in the hands of a specific group of constructors. The system was constructed so as to exclude the lowest bids; it demanded non-existent patents and construction miracles even to evaluate a bid which questioned the results of the pre-arranged bids. It was clearly an insult to the intelligence. Even the prime minister has for some time been aware of the problems that have been mounting due to this inappropriate way of assigning public works. Yet this law and this «mathematical formula» have been functioning for years as the main way of assigning projects worth billions of euros. Even by conservative estimates, the costs have been exaggerated by about a billion euros, excluding the customary overspending and other irregularities during the execution of a project. Five years later, and after the terms of assigning public works contracts have been challenged in Greek and European courts, the government is tentatively accepting how wrong it has been to persist with such a problematic system. A month ago, Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou admitted the need to change the relevant legislation and yesterday called for a dialogue with the opposition parties to find another formula. After continual reprimands from the European Commission, the Council of State has decided that «the decisions by public works ministers that determine the mathematical formula are invalid as contrary to Article 30 of Directive 93/37/EEC, as it has been interpreted by the Court of the European Communities.» This makes it clear that there is a specific responsibility, political and possibly criminal, at least for those who adopt and passionately defend the «mathematical formula,» a responsibility that touches the public interest and resources of the Greek people. The justice system has a duty to find out who invented such a problematic system that has cost the country so much. Perhaps it is time for the public prosecutor to step in.