Economy Ministry Blocks EU Funding of EUR 96 M for 142 Companies
Bulgaria's Ministry of Economy and Energy has suspended EU funding of EUR 96 M for technological upgrades at142 small and medium-sized companies.
Eli Milusheva, Director-General of the Directorate-General European Funds for Competitiveness of the Ministry of Economy and Energy announced at a press conference on Monday that she would not sign the contracts under the project "Technological upgrade at small and medium-sized enterprises" under the "Competitiveness" operational program
She made clear that the matter involved a sum of slightly over BGN 96 M, adding that the money would not be lost and would be distributed among a number of projects from a reserve list by the end of next week.
Milusheva explained that most of the projects on the reserve list were under the programs for energy efficiency and development of innovations.
She announced that the managing authority had been snowed under with complaints and tip-offs about irregularities in the evaluation process, adding that the signals had started arriving right after the publication of a decision from May 23 on the approval of the report of the evaluation committee.
Milusheva noted that a total of 142 companies had been supposed to sign contracts for funding under the "Competitiveness" operational program on June 30, 2014.
She noted that the presence of over 100 complaints and tip-offs, including ones which had been submitted to the State Agency for National Security (DANS) and the prosecuting authority, had made her cancel her previous decision and the contracts for EU funding for technological upgrades would not be signed.
Milusheva, head of the managing authority of the program, stated that the complaints and signals kept coming in, adding that a repeat inspection of the tip-offs ordered by her had found that the violations mostly involved unfair treatment of candidates and breaches of internal rules resulting in a change of the ranking.
"On the one hand, we have a list of companies which have been approved to receive funding. Not all of them played unfair and to them the cancellation of the decision is not fair. We also have a deadline of June 30, 2014 to sign the contracts. After the deadline, no projects can be signed under the operational program and the funding is lost automatically. On the other hand, we have evidence of breaches and a risk of financial corrections and a suspension of the program and a delay of the accreditation for the next programming period, which is a risk which nobody can afford," she declared.
Milusheva informed that the most serious violations which had been reported to the prosecuting authority involved calls by the evaluation committee to some of the companies.
She said that the signal had been submitted by consultants of the projects and had been confirmed by DANS.