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Things never go according to plan in the case of state tenders

The last experiment with traffic cameras 12 years ago

THE GOVERNMENT may have invited tenders for the installation and operation of traffic cameras, but it would be a foolish person that would bet on some of these actually working by the first half of next year as transport minister Vasiliki Anastasiadou had forecasted on Monday.

In fairness, the minister based her ultra-optimistic forecast on everything going according to plan, but the truth is it never does in the case of state tenders.

As soon as the government announces its decision, in three months’ time one of the losing bidders will file an appeal at the Tender Review Board, arguing that some aspect of the procedure had been violated. The inventiveness of lawyers in this regard is quite astonishing and most times the appeals are upheld. It does not matter if the winning bid is lower-priced and fully in line with the tenders’ specifications, the Tender Review Board could uphold an appeal over inconsequential procedural details.

This is the main reason why it takes the government years to sign a contract with a private provider of services or goods. Some tenderers simply file an appeal for the sake of it, to delay the procedure in what is an act of vindictiveness. Although there are ways to deter such behaviour no government seems willing to resort to them. For instance, it could pass legislation making the payment of a hefty deposit a requirement for any appeal, a deposit that would be lost if the appeal was lost.

It could also take punitive measures against the civil servants that make such a mess of the specifications and tenders documents that they leave big openings for successful appeals. Often there are suspicions, that mistakes are made intentionally by the civil servants, but no case has ever been investigated, the assumption being that mistakes or omission are inevitable. In a way they are when nobody in the state services is prepared to do anything about this shoddy work that costs the taxpayer millions, in compensations, delays and legal fees every year.

All the problems mentioned above have been evident in the last 12 years that the state has been trying, unsuccessfully, to arrange the introduction of traffic cameras. Such was the degree of failure the impression given was that the state did not really want to install speed cameras, because they would be very unpopular, as they had been 12 years ago when they were in operation for a few months. We hope we will not witness the same scenario this time, because speed cameras greatly improve road safety.

 


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