Prague - Czech soldiers are currently engaged in several peace-keeping missions abroad. That's one of the reasons behind the army's present need for having its equipment modernized. However, procurement processes often raise suspicions of corruption, with the very last one not being an exception.
The military wants to buy four armored vehicles to be used in Afghanistan. A supplier, an Italian company Iveco, was selected without competition. The same firm was rejected from a competition for new transporters last year.
Iveco had appealed to the court which eventually declared the official reasons of its rejection groundless. The Ministry had reacted by appealing to the Highest Court, whose verdict is yet to be heard.
Billions yesterday, millions today
All sides - the Ministry of Defense, the army, and Iveco - deny that the upcoming contract is a partial compensation to the latter for its being eliminated from the previous deal.
Iveco will get roughly 100 million Czech crowns for the vehicles. A laughable sum, when compared to the 24 billions paid to the Austrian manufacturer Steyr, a winner of the last year's contract for transporters. It was the most expensive contract in the Czech Army's history.
Main reason behind the Army's current choice is, allegedly, the British having good experience with the vehicles. Czech special police forces located in southern Afghanistan are under the British command.
"The British are satisfied with the vehicles," assured Jan Pejšek from the Ministry's press department, adding that Italians, Croats, and Norwegians use the same transporters as well.
Contract yet to be signed
Czech soldiers can obtain new vehicles in February next year. But first, the contract has to be prepared.
Although the committee of the Defense Minister Vlasta Parkanová already approved the general idea of this procurement, the military police is ordered to prepare more detailed papers.
"Only then the decision will be made whether to buy these vehicles," said Pejšek.
The army has been struggling to buy armored vehicles for its foreign missions all year long. Originally, it had initiated a competition, which was however suspected by many as being tailor-made for Omnipol company.
Even after the conditions of the bidding competition were altered to acomodate the criticism, Omnipol came out a winner. The results were cancelled afterwards, ostensibly because of the expensiveness of the vehicles and also because the delivery date was deemed excessively long. The Army was supposed to wait two years for the vehicles to be supplied.