Public Heat Producer Withholds Contract Details
A certain company allegedly linked to Jozef Brhel is apparently eanring some good money from the state-owned heating company in Bratislava, Bratislavská teplárenská (BAT), under questionable circumstances.
The state-owned joint stock company, which supplies heat to half of the country’s capital, is holding back contracts it has with companies that supply it with goods and services. The company is refusing to disclose the details of a contract worth EUR 5 million, which is made even more suspicious by the fact that the company on the winning end of the contract ENE-TEP is linked to businessman Jozef Brhel, long been associated as being one of the main sponsors behind PM Robert Fico’s SMer-SD party.
According to journalist Tom Nicholson, half of the company was owned by Comenerg, controlled by the siblings Jozef and Ivan Brhel. Jozef Brhel used to be an MP for the HZDS party of Vladimir Meciar, but is now more associated with the Smer-SD party, which has its nominees running the heating company.
The winning contractor, ENE-TEP, is not forthcoming when it comes to who its owners are, replying merely that it is owned by “several” shareholders. The lucrative contract between BAT and ENETEP is for “paralell inspections and repairs of technological equipment, metering and regulation of electrical equipment”, according to SME daily, with ENE-TEP allegedly receiving EUR 1.377 excluding VAT a year from the heating company. This is not the first contract the two companies have signed together.
BAT is refusing to publish the contracts, using a loophole in the Act on Free Access to Information as its excuse, saying it is a standard business transaction and so it only has to declare that the contract was concluded and not provide the details. This loophole has been utilised also by other state-owned companies, like state-owned electricity grid operator Slovenská elektrizačná prenosová sústava.
BAT, which has a long history of underhanded manipulation, could find itself at the mercy of the Ministry of Justice, however, as it disagrees with this bending of the law. The Ministry points out that those responsible have to publish the details and that they would suffer “legal repercussions” if abusing the unclear legal arrangement. The Ministry does not plan to change the law in question, however.
The tender for the contract was also not exactly above board, as it was doe using a negotiated procedure with prior notice, which essentially means the contracting authority can decide on the winner itself.
Meanwhile, daily Hospodarske Noviny points out how Jozef Brhel was quoted as the contact person for four separate energy companies in a conference in Israel in November organised by the Israeli Institute for Export and International Co-operation in Tel Aviv (the companies are Alter Energo, E-Group, Pow-en and PATRIA Consulting & Development). Brhel was recently ranked as the 21st richest Czech or Slovak.
The daily also points out how Brhel’s company is receiving subsidised electricity payments from the state for electricity produced by solar power plants, after his company gained a licence in a questionable procedure.