Select contractors designated winners of city construction projects

A small group of companies continues to emerge as winners of successive construction projects in east Hungary’s Szolnok. The locals are dissatisfied with the projects in general and are also suspicious that they are designed to funnel money to a handful of well-connected contractors. investigated the story.

East Hungary’s Szolnok is an established stronghold for the governing Fidesz party and its oligarchyIn recent years, the various construction deals initiated by town hall consistently went to a group of three building firms, Bau-Vertikal Kft, Bojtos-Bau Kft and Bau-Komplex Kft. The first on the list has hit troubled times lately, even amassed debts to the state excluding it from public procurement. The other two, however, are doing quite well.

The first high-profile project is the RepTar aviation museum. Szolnok mayor Ferenc Szalay earlier said that the old museum needed a new facility in a new location because it outgrew its old place which was in a state of decay. The solution was to relocate the museum to the outskirts of the city. The distance already necessitated buying a bus ticket, not to mention the fact that entry fees were introduced, even though previously it could be visited free of charge. Locals were disgruntled, especially considering that the museum’s main audience is schoolchildren.

The city was approved HUF 2.7 billion (€8.8 million) in European Union funds, some HUF 2.5 billion (€8.6 million) of which went to cover construction jobs and the procurement of necessary materials.

Bau-Komplex was the biggest beneficiary. The company has been a city favorite since 2011. It was commissioned to build the Agora community center. Bizarrely, the new facility was built right next to the city’s already existing and operating community building. At the time of the inauguration, Mayor Szalay boasted about the state-of-the-art addition to the city’s services, in reality, what they got was two separate recreational centers which both operate at only half their capacity. Agora, just like the RepTar venture seems to be an ad hoc idea without any obvious thought put into it.

Bau-Komplex managed to keep winning various projects because the municipal government chopped the various investments into phases, all within a value range that did not require calling an open tender.

Bojtos-Bau is also a local favorite, the company was commissioned to perform the renovation of the municipality building. A look into the ownership quickly ties it to the governing Fidesz party, with several lesser-prominent, second-liners of the elite emerging.

A common theme in many of the tenders where the favorites or their partners applied for money, is that they managed to submit bids incredibly close to the value the municipality estimated. It was almost as if they knew the maximum they could propose, while still underbidding the originally calculated amount, in order to assure victory.

Regarding the low turnout that these expensive facilities currently attract, Mayor Szalay said it is only because they are not widely known yet. Nonetheless, another major development project is about to start, no doubt with the participation of familiar figures.

Original article in Hungarian

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