Serbia's provincial govt. switch from SBB to state MTS after decade without note

Source: N1

The Government of Serbia's Vojvodina province changed its Internet and television provider from the privately-owned SBB to the state Mobile Telephony of Serbia (MTS) without publishing the public call on the Public Procurement website, and unlike in previous procurements, the Government sent bidding invitations to some companies, but not to SBB, with which it had a still valid contract at that time.

SBB, as well as some experts, see the move as a violation of competitiveness.

Without an invitation and almost without a note, ten years after successful cooperation, and after it asked for an explanation, the provincial Government told SBB it ended a public procurement and that its new cable operator would be MTS.

The Government said the value of the services was bellowing the amount of 8.5 million Euro set by the Law on Public Procurement, and „the procurement proceeded  in a way that the purchaser secured competitiveness by notifying companies to send bods via e-mail, and not through the Public Procurement website.“

SBB’s Business Sales Director Srdjan Tomasevic told N1 the company did not expect such treatment and hoped it would at least be notified when procurement started.

„It’s unclear why we haven’t got a chance, a call to take part, equally to others,“ he said.

Tomasevic added SBB had nothing against some other company getting the job, but that the problem was in the non-transparent procedure.

„That’s about the business ethics, but more about the respect of the Law on Public Procurement which obliges the purchaser to provide fair and equal conditions to all,“ he said.

Nemanja Nenadic from the ‘Transparency Serbia’ told N1 that despite the authorities were not obliged by the Law to publish the call on the Public Procurement website, they were not prevented, and there was no reason to avoid that.

„I believe that in this case, someone from the Government violated their own rules and the Law on Public Procurement regulations, i.e., they deliberately denied access to one of the possible bidders,“ he added.

Goran Radosavljevic, an economist, said the Law was clear and the competitiveness should be respected along with the prevention of discrimination, regardless of the value of the procurement. The usual reason for not inviting someone,“ he adds, „is that you don’t want to do business with them any more.“

„Without going into their reason, I think they violated the Law and that procedure should be annulled and the process renewed so that the best bidder could win,“ Radosavljevic said.

SBB believes that it has been yet another attempt to influence its business in Vojvodina.

It recalled the case of pressure on employees in a municipality there to switch to MTS cable network at home and many comments on social networks saying that across the province the workers in public companies were asked to change the cable operator.

„After the pressure on individuals, it spread on the business community,“ SBB said.

SBB is a part of the United Group as is N1.