The Ministerial Protection for the VOP CZ endangers the purchase of IFVs - if the Office accepts the objection, "the whole tender will end under the table"

The Ministerial Protection for the VOP CZ endangers the purchase of IFVs - if the Office accepts the objection, &quote;the whole tender will end under the table&quote;
Author: Ministry of Defense|Caption: CV90, LYNX KF41, ASCOD 42
13 / 09 / 2021, 14:00

After all the surprises and delays we have been able to observe since the spring of 2019 regarding the largest arms contract in the history of the independent Czech Republic - acquisition of 210 tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicles for CZK 52 billion - another obstacle arose for the criticized tender, and it has the potential to stop it completely. At the end of August, the Office for the Protection of Competition (ÚOHS) received a proposal to review the procedure of the Ministry of Defense, which concerns one of the sixteen insurmountable conditions of the entire tender. It is about ensuring the life cycle of new vehicles, which the Ministry of Defense intends to assign to the VOP CZ state enterprise without a competition on the basis of an exception from the Public Procurement Act.

"Why do we want to use an exclusively state-owned enterprise to secure the entire life cycle?" The Ministry of Defense asked two years ago when it presented its 16 insurmountable requirements for track-side BVP. And he replied: “The VOP CZ military repair company, a state-owned company, will guarantee the involvement of Czech companies. Service will be provided as soon as needed. At the same time, the company can modernize the vehicles accordingly according to the future requirements of the Army. It has the necessary employees and technology for that. It is a state enterprise of the Ministry of Defense. Its basic task is to protect our security interests. "

See also: Another delay of the Czech IFV tender. Now COVID is the reason

The role of VOP CZ as an integrator of the Czech defense industry's participation in the contract (in the amount of at least 40%) and especially as a guarantor of ensuring the life cycle of purchased vehicles has been repeatedly criticized by some members of the Defense Committee. The company has been at a loss for a long time and, according to a number of deputies, does not have sufficient capacity and experience for a similarly demanding task. Former Minister of Defense Karla Šlechtová (ANO) formulated, among other things, what was said by other critics that the main purpose of VOP CZ's involvement in the contract is for the state enterprise to "live" from it. According to another of the government deputies, Pavel Růžička, the company does not have enough military contracts, it lacks experienced employees as well as equipment and technology.

 "VOP CZ and its management is a long-term problem and it is probably the result of its poor management. Now, in connection with the new IFV, it should manage an amount higher than 100 billion crowns for the entire life cycle. This is an amount that some ministries do not even think about," said MP Radovan Vích (SPD) in an interview with Security Magazine. Also Karel Krejza (ODS) is one of the critics of VOP CZ's involvement in the contract: “I do not like the role of a state-owned enterprise. It is obvious that it has been in economic problems for a long time and I also doubt its ability to manage such a huge contract technologically and personally. "

See also: Czech IFV tender: PUMA withdrawn from the competition. Another blow for the criticized tender

The fact that the Ministry of Defense wants to award a contract to ensure the life cycle of Infantry Fighting Vehicles without competition to the VOP CZ, based on an exception provided for in Section 29 „s“ of the Public Procurement Act, has now been challenged before the Competition Office.

According to MP Karel Krejza, the Ministry of Defense rejected the objection: “To my direct question, the representatives of the Ministry replied that they were convinced that they would succeed in their procedure and interpretation. We know how the helicopters turned out.” He said, referring to a recent fine imposed by the Office in the amount of over 0.5 billion crowns for incorrect procedures in the acquisition of multi-purpose Venom and Viper helicopters, which the Ministry of Defense is defending against in court. According to the complainant, life cycle assurance as a service cannot be exempted and the supplier must be selected in a competition.

See also: IFV acquisition project - Transparency International sends an open letter to the MoD

This was also confirmed by MP Vích: “On 1 September, the Ministry received the final bids from the candidates it was assessing, however, an objection was filed with the Office. And that is quite important, it is paragraph 29, letter s. The point is that the MoD wants to award the entire life cycle of the IFV directly to the VOP CZ. Which, in the complainant's view, cannot be done. And if the Office confirms this, the whole tender will end under the table.” Representatives of the ministry argued with reference to NATO's so-called Capability Targets and classified information that would justify the exception.

When asked by the Security Magazine, the Office confirmed the acceptance of the proposal for the review of the contracting authority's procedure, stating that the date of issuing the first-instance decision cannot be foreseen. "In the event that an incorrect procedure of the contracting authority is found, the Office may prohibit the contracting authority from continuing the proposed contested procedure, ie award using an exception," the Office replied.

See also: Chairman of the Office for the Protection of Competition: the Ministry committed one of the most serious offenses

The self-confidence of the Ministry of Defense is really reminiscent of the fine case of multi-purpose helicopters. And no wonder: both projects were solved from the position of Deputy for Acquisitions Filip Říha, who today heads the newly established legal section, and undoubtedly participates in the formulation of the legal opinion of the Ministry of Defense, by which he defends his formerly adopted procedures. However, the fine for failure to settle the objections of the Italian company Leonardo in the matter of helicopters is unpleasant for the Ministry, if the Office grants the complaint in the matter of tracked IFVs, resp. involvement of VOP CZ in the contract for securing the life cycle, this can have dramatic effects for the entire tender. After many postponements of the deadline, it may happen that this necessary modernization project of the Czech Army will have to be approached anew and from the very beginning. The deadline of 1 January 2026, by which the Czech Republic has committed itself to forming the so-called heavy-type brigade task force available to the Alliance, will be endangered. And all the longer, the mechanized battalions of the 7th Brigade will have to use the obsolete BVP-2’s, whose operation and maintenance beyond the service life are becoming even more expensive.

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