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OpenCard scandal: 8 firms with unknown owners involved

18. 12. 2009 15:00
The badly conceived project has cost 888 million CZK of taxpayers´ money

Prague - A project that was supposed to facilitate the citizens of Prague an access to public services proves to be more and more dubious.

A multipurpose card OpenCard was launched last year to replace monthly transit passes as well as library, museum and other types of service cards.

However, the project has not met the coveted goal and the suspiciously high costs of the project (888 million CZK) have become the target of sharp criticism.

A recent audit of the OpenCard project revealed major mismanagement by the Prague City Hall and Prague Public Transport company. The auditors marked the project as "badly conceived" right from the beginning, stressing overpricing, untraceable invoices and nontransparent commissioning.

Moreover, the auditors pointed out that Prague City Hall granted some of the commissions to companies whose owners are "anonymous" and more importantly, without running a proper tender. Some of the contracts were not related to the OpenCard project.

"Anonymous" owners

As Aktuálně.cz learned, the Prague City Hall and Prague Public Transport company have commissioned projects with 8 companies whose owners are "untrackable".

The Prague City Hall mayor Pavel Bém has promised to track down the ownership of these companies.

"We want to know about the ownership of the firms [involved in the OpenCard project] and we will try our best to find out," Bém said.

Among the companies that have been involved in the OpenCard project is Grand Princ, whose owner is said to be a close ally to Pavel Bém. Bém denied the allegation.

"I am as close to him as you are," he told the Aktuálně.cz reporter.

Curiously, Grand Princ has been involved in another Prague City hall project - printing Prague news bulletin (Listy hlavního města Prahy).

The names of all the other companies involved in the OpenCard project are also untraceable. One of them, Haguess, was responsible for the project´s technology and received the biggest commission (over 200 million CZK).

"The fact that most of the contracts have been assigned without holding a public tender adds to the lack of transparency in contractual relations with Haguess. Public tenders are necessary to gain economic transparency of the project," says the audit, adding that Haguess overpriced its services.

In reaction to new accusations, Bém has ordered another audit of the beleaguered project, the results of which should be known before Christmas.

"I will compare the results of the two audits and only then I will decide how to solve the situation," he said.

ODS stronghold in Prague City Hall

In the meantime, Prague deputy mayor for the European Democrats Party (SNK-ED), Markéta Reedová has resigned from her post in the Prague Council. She was in charge of pushing throuh anti-corruption measures.

Reedová criticised non-transparent strategies and atmospehere in the City Council in the past. In November she warned she would resign if more transparent and cost-saving policies are not adopted in the City Council.

"The City Hall is more and more starting to look like a jungle in which some either do not know or have forgotten that the hall should serve Prague residents, not vice versa," she told press agency ČTK a month ago.

Another member of the Prague Council has resigned this week, Petr Štěpánek of the Green Party.

Following these two resignations, it makes the Prague Council and Prague Assembly the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) stronghold; ODS now holds an absolute majority in the 11-seat Prague Council as well as in the 70-seat Prague assembly.  

autor: CzechNews | 18. 12. 2009 15:00

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