Project for electricity connection between Macedonia and Albania delayed

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Construction of a 400kV substation in Ohrid and a 400kV transmission line has been delayed for two years, and recently the information that the 48m-euro project with which the country needs to connect to Albania is in danger of collapse came out in public.

The unofficial reason for the delay is the quarrels in MEPSO over the way tenders are published and the lack of a construction permit for the project. In recent years, some media outlets reported that several employees had alerted that the tender was being set up and that some had been removed from their positions. Internally, workers believe tender winners are already known.

According to reports, the tenders for the power line and substation have been merged into one, raising the possibility for the investment to increase by at least 20%. If things do not get under way by December, apart from having to pay EBRD penalties to raise funds, there is a risk that the project will fail because the loan agreement with the bank ends just then.

A question mark remains as to why the tender has not been announced so far. Certain procedures indicate that he is being “hired” to get a company, as MEPSO staff recently told the media.

Taking into consideration the technical standardization and type of equipment the tender may be targeted and restricted both by the number of potential bidders and by a specific region of tenders with selection and specification of qualification criteria. As this project is funded by the EBRD, it is subject to appropriate rules and policies of the international financial institution.

International financial institutions have their own rules and procedures for defining qualification criteria in order for tenders to be “open” to a large number of bidders and thus to be maximally transparent and non-discriminatory.

In the part of experience which is a qualification requirement it is stated that the bidder has at least 2 projects in the past 7 years as the main bidder or partner. According to the recommendations, it is completely and inappropriately stated that the leader of the associated bidders must meet 100% of the required criteria, which in each case and in each application is an inappropriate requirement and clearly states the aim of reducing and limiting the number of potential bidders.

It should be emphasized that in our region, i.e. in the Balkans in the past 5 to 10 years the number of new transmission lines construction is insignificantly small, and there is no higher voltage level, so these qualification criteria doubt that they are designed in order to contribute to favoring a particular company that is perhaps the only one in the region that can meet this criterion that is obviously targeted without having the logic or model to see how it is calculated.

The annual turnover criterion and available financial capital are inconsistent with the qualification criterion applicable in practice and are not properly complied with. Both criteria should be prepared according to the methodology with the same input value of the investment according to the procurement plan and implementation deadline multiplied by the appropriate factor. In this case, they can never be seen to be synchronized or consistent with one another, meaning they may be suspected of being “made-up” for someone that fulfills them as such.

The money for the construction of the substation and transmission line was provided by the previous government in 2015 from the EBRD with a 36m-euro loan and a 12m-euro grant. The state-owned MEPSO has been the focus of citizens in recent years due to the employment of close relatives of current officials, as well as the disputed purchases of expensive furniture.

Implementation of this project is a huge delay given the fact that the feasibility study was completed more than five years ago, and the design contract was signed in 2015 and no one has yet taken any responsibility.

In the past 6 years, the only transmission line built and put into operation is the interconnection transmission line from Stip to the Macedonian-Serbian border, which was built by “Energomontaza” from Serbia.

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