From March 1, the forint threshold for public procurements conducted by the city of Budapest’s procurement company will be raised, following a vote in the city assembly on Wednesday.
The Mayor’s Office and municipal government will be obliged to conduct public procurements in the case of contracts that exceed a net 200 million forints (EUR 645,000), while city-run companies — with the exception cultural services — must do so if the contract is worth more than a net 500 million. The threshold had been set at 150 million forints.
The proposal by Gábor Bagdy, the deputy mayor, was approved with 21 votes in favour, 4 against and 5 abstentions.
Opposition politicians said the entire system of public procurements was ripe for an overhaul and changing the threshold would not solve the procurement company’s dysfunctional ways.
Csaba Horváth of the Socialists and Erzsébet Gy Németh of the Democratic Coalition called for the company to be dismantled and an alternative solution found.
Also, the assembly voted in favour of Bagdy’s proposal to authorise Budapest Mayor István Tarlós to start talks with the government on selling the Bálna Shopping and Cultural Centre to the state.
The proposal was made after an open tender to sell the 13,000 square-meter landmark building on the Danube embankment was unsuccessful. There were altogether seven preliminary inquiries made for purchasing the property. The minimum net sale price was set at 11 billion forints (EUR 35.5m). It was only a company owned by the National Bank of Hungary that bought the tender documents but it failed to submit a bid by the Dec. 15 deadline. Government office chief János Lázár announced on Nov. 30 that the central government intends to buy the Bálna for the Hungarian Tourism Agency.
In a debate about the Bálna, Gy. Németh called it “fortunate” that the Budapest leadership had failed to “bargain away” the property.
She insisted that municipal leaders were unfit to ensure the Bálna fulfilled its original purpose as a culture centre. She said DK supports the Socialist proposal to call a tender for the centre’s operation. Horváth opposed selling the Bálna and called for a tender to be invited to ensure its original purpose as a culture centre is served.
Marcell Tokody of the Jobbik party stated his objection to plans to sell the Bálna to the government, saying that “those who want to rescue the property created the problem in the first place”.
Tarlós in response said that the [Socialist-liberal] municipal leadership before 2010 had failed to see its construction through, leaving seven lawsuits in its wake for the current city leadership to tackle. He said several attempts had been made to make sure the complex served a cultural purpose.
Bagdy said that contracts “left behind” by previous leaders had obliged the municipality to pay more than 30 billion forints over several years. He said that unless a new competent owner is found to operate the Bálna efficiently, the municipality would continue to operate the complex.
The city assembly rejected the Socialist proposal.
Featured image: MTI