Sarajevo Minister Queries Chinese Companies After BIRN Investigation

27. April 2022.17:34
Sarajevo Canton’s transport minister Adnan Steta said he has asked Chinese companies involved in the renovation of the city’s tramway tracks for details of their past jobs after an investigation by BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina raised competence issues.

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Adnan Šteta, cantonal transport minister. Photo: BIRN BiH

Cantonal transport minister Adnan Steta told a press conference, organized shortly after a journalist from BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina appeared on N1 TV to talk about the investigation into the tramway rails renovation tender, that he has raised qustions with the Chinese companies

Steta had said he would also appear on the N1 TV programme, but failed to appear. The ministry previously avoided BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina’s questions about the contract and only responded to general inquiries.

The contract to renovate the tramway tracks, worth around 20 million euros, was won by two Chinese companies, China Shandong International Economic & Technical Cooperation Group (Shandong) and China Railway No. 10 Engineering Group Co. (CREC 10).

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina had sought information about China Railway No. 10 Engineering Group Co. (CREC 10), which built a bridge in Kenya in 2017.

The Kenyan bridge structure collapsed during the works, causing injuries to 27 people. Some companies from the same consortium as China Railway No. 10 Engineering Group Co. were sanctioned by the World Bank for falsifying documents when submitting tender bids, while another one withdrew from a highway construction project in Poland following a financial recalculation.

“I highly value investigative journalism. In this country many things are revealed because of high-quality investigative journalists. We are obliged to provide the media with information to the extent we can and based on what our laws and procedures dictate,” Steta said in response to a question from a journalist from BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina at the press conference.

“These two companies provided all that the EBRD [European Bank of Reconstruction and Development] requested. We have no other knowledge, except from your query related to this issue, to which we responded accordingly. In essence, on the basis of information and questions we have received from you, we forwarded the questions to these companies. I am expecting them to submit their views on the issue,” he added.

The investigation by BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina showed that the Chinese corporation has faced several court proceedings in recent years. Due to the cantonal transport ministry’s lack of transparency, it is not clear how the company answered the mandatory questions about the court cases it lost in the period between 2015 and 2019, as was requested in the tender documentation.

When asked if he will tell the public about the answers he receives from the Chinese company, Steta said it depends on “how they will submit their response to us, what they will write and what laws they will mention”.

“When we receive an answer, I don’t know what it will contain. I’ll take the liberty of sharing it with you if we can do it,” he said.

In one of its previous written answers about the contract, the ministry said the contract had been regarded as secret. But when Steta answered a question from a journalist from BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina at the press conference, he said that “no one asked for any secrecy”.

He insisted that the contract with the Chinese companies was not secret, adding that such secret contracts do not exist, but that “a part of the contract is not available to the public, which is in accordance with the law”.

“In order to make that public, all contract signatories should give their consent, which means we cannot publish a contract with anyone without consent, not only this particular contract, if the other party does not agree, as we would be breaching the law,” he said.

“We sent a query to the contractors relating to the questions you had. We addressed them as the ministry to see whether they are ready to potentially step out of those frameworks,” he added.

He said that the complete contract could be made available to “any investigative body in the event of any well-grounded suspicion”.

Irvin Pekmez

This post is also available in: Bosnian