Bulgaria's parliament approved on March 22 highly controversial amendments to the Public Procurement Act that will allow contracts to repair the fence along its border with Turkey to be awarded without going to tender.
The amendments, proposed by the ruling coalition, the open door for corruption and money laundering, according to its critics and the main opposition parties, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and the ethnic-Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), which have called it a “golden hole”.
The changes were backed by 94 MPs, while 51 voted against the changes proposed by the ruling coalition, which has claimed that scrapping the public procurement process will speed up repair works.
Bulgaria started building the three-metre-high fence in January 2014, following the example of Greece, which built a similar barrier in 2012 to cope with a soaring number of refugees, mainly from Syria. The project was initiated by the government of former Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski, which built a 30km fence.
The subsequent second and third governments of Boyko Borissov have expanded the project, which is now meant to cover the entire border. Critics of the project, however, claim that the costs for its execution are huge, while the quality is poor and migrants are crossing the border without difficulty.
During the debate, BSP MP Ivan Ivanov described the fence as resembling a Swiss cheese.
“After [the adoption of the] amendments the golden fence will turn into a golden hole, because the changes will cover up frauds and aims to dilute responsibility,” Ivanov also said.
The fence has to be repaired at four spots, according to the interior ministry. However, Bulgaria’s prosecution has launched a probe into its construction following reports by the BSP that there are huge holes below the fence that migrants use to freely cross the border.
Bulgaria is trying to show some results in fight against top-level corruption and organised crime in order to be accepted into the Schengen waiting room. However, it has not made any significant progress yet.
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