Once again Hungary makes a farce out of its tendering procedures. On the same day that the Budapest Municipal Court ruled that the tender for two commercial radio frequencies was illegal Hungarian politicians called for the examination of the results of a gas tender. The crime: a Hungarian gas company lost. In both cases the foreign company offered better conditions than Hungarian companies.
On December 30, 2009 it was announced that OMV had won a tender to provide fuel to government bodies. This would mean that state owned vehicles would be gassed up at the winning bidder’s petrol stations. OMV was able to underbid MOL by 2-3 ft per litre with an overall saving for the state budget at 100- 150 million Forints a year. The tender’s weighting was 70% price, 20% number of stations and 10% location. There you have it, an open tendering procedure with clear criteria and clear savings to the tax payers.
The problem arises from the fact that OMV is NOT Hungarian, but rather part of the evil empire in Austria. You would have thought Lajos Kossuth himself came back from the grave to stop this insanity of governmental cooperation with an Austrian entity. To add insult to injury there is the history of OMV previous attempt to take over MOL and which is now solely responsible for MOL’s current spat with Surgutneftegas after selling it’s shares to the Russian company. This dispute is not new to Hungary, just typical of it forcing its taxpayers to pay more for their energy then necessary.
Now that the tendering procedure is over, and the benefits to the taxpayer and the concept of EU cross-border commerce have prevailed, Parliament’s National Defence and Law Enforcement Committee will hold hearings on the travesty caused by this tender. Apparently, since OMV does not have ‘national security protection status’ then the Republican Regiment, police, fire fighters and ambulance workers will continue to use MOL’s service stations.
I don’t want to rally against MOL, as they also have clean bathrooms, but it is clear that once again the Fidesz politicians that are calling this ad hoc meeting are opposed to a foreign company winning in a government controlled tender. I really can’t take the view that in this case it is an issue of ‘national security.’ MOL will be able to survive and profit regardless if it wins this tender, and OMV probably won’t be making much money off the gas itself, since margins are so thin. Rather, the profit will probably come from selling candy bars and coffee to the police and fire fighters. Also at the end of the day, a savings of 150 million Forints for the government budget won’t do much to dent Hungary’s debt. It will however, cover for some of the lost revenue generated by not renewing the radio frequency tender to the original foreign owners.
Public tenders are done to foster a transparent playing field for companies where the best price and services are gotten for a lower cost than through backroom deals. The fact that OMV won this tender is no doubt a big coup for them, however more than the savings that it produces it should demonstrate Hungary’s commitment to regional commerce. In the era of open EU borders, a company with a long established presence in Hungary, like OMV, should be seen as a benefit to fair business practices, not a threat to national security. It is beyond belief that somehow OMV would withhold petrol to Hungarian ambulances or its police force. If some Fidesz politicians are believers in buying local –at any cost, then let them use MOL’s toilets. But let’s allow the taxpayers to save some money by peeing on Austrian property – even Kossuth himself would be tempted by that.