A grouping of Armenian non-governmental organizations criticized the government on Thursday for its handling of a multimillion-dollar project to upgrade the country’s road infrastructure.
The organizations monitoring the project’s implementation specifically expressed concern over the selection of a Spanish construction company tasked with rebuilding and expanding more than 90 kilometers of major Armenian highways as part of the scheme.
The company, Corsan Corvian Construccion, signed a $280 million contract with the Armenian Ministry of Transport and Communications late last month after winning an international tender called by the government last August. The Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) will finance the bulk of that construction work from a $500 million loan which it pledged to provide to Armenia in 2009.
Silva Adamian, who coordinates the monitoring team, claimed that the tender was not fair because Armenian firms were barred from participating in it. “Our companies were not allowed to take part in this tender,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “I don’t consider this a tender. What kind of a tender is this?”
“Besides, there is no information about that Spanish company,” Adamian said. “We don’t know what kind of a company it is, where it has worked and what it has done.”
“I don’t know who told Ms. Adamian that Armenian companies were banned from participating in the tender. There is no such thing,” countered Ara Hovsepian, the government-appointed chief executive of the project implementation agency.
Hovsepian said that Armenian firms were among 28 entities that showed a tentative interest in the tender last year. None of them eventually submitted bids, he said.
“No Armenian company has previously engaged in this scale of work required by bidding specifications,” Hovsepian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “There hasn’t been this scale of [road] construction work in our country before.”
“This [Spanish] company was declared the winner because it met all bidding requirements and has ample experience in construction work,” added the official. “Based on some unofficial information … I can say that it is considered one of Spain’s largest construction companies that is doing business not only in Spain but also elsewhere in the world.”
The so-called North-South Project envisages the reconstruction of some 550 kilometers of highways stretching from the Armenian-Iranian border to one of the three Armenian-Georgian border crossings. The Armenian government says a key aim of the $1.5 billion project is to enable Iran to use Armenian and Georgian territory for large-scale freight shipments to and from Europe.