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EC suspects price-fixing, withholds billions for Polish roads

4th February 2013
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A group of Polish construction firms allegedly tried to create a cartel for road contracts

Poland needs many more kilometers of good roads and highways
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The European Commission confirmed last week that it had suspended the payment of zł.3.5 billion in EU funds for co-financing road construction in Poland. The EC suspects that 10 firms attempted to fix prices for the cost of work on sections of an expressway in Jeżewo-Białystok, parts of the Number 8 expressway in Piotrków Trybunalski-Rawa Mazowiecka and parts of the A4 highway in Radymno-Korczowa.

All three projects were being co-financed with EU funding. The EC said it had received “information” that companies involved had attempted to fix the prices, and it had therefore decided to suspend the funds.

“In line with this information, confirmed by Polish authorities, the prosecutor has charged 11 people with trying to create a cartel,” the EC said in a statement. The suspects include 10 former and current managers of large construction firms, and one director in the General Directorate for National Roads and Motorways, Poland’s national roads authority.

“If the accusations are found to be true it would be a breach of the directives on public tenders in the EU and would prove a potentially serious weakness in the management and control system,” the communique read. The EC also confirmed that it had nitially informed the Polish government of its decision on December 21, 2012.

But Elżbieta Bieńkowska, regional development minister, told public radio that the EC’s decision was “completely not understandable.”

“Poland’s system of choosing projects and contractors works perfectly well and Poland is the injured party here, because Polish authorities had already discovered that there may have been attempts to create a cartel in two or three cases,” she added.

Deputy Regional Development Minister Adam Zdziebło confirmed that the Polish government had informed the EC in 2010 that suspected firms were trying to create a cartel and had started investigating the matter.

After holding discussions with EC officials, Deputy Transport Minister Patrycja Wolińska-Bartkiewicz said that the EU executive could lift the suspension of the funds in mid-March.

Remi Adekoya

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