The state, through the Electric Power Company of Serbia (EPS), awarded works worth about two billion dinars to the metal machining company “Feromont inženjering” this year, even though it owes the state more than 34 million dinars in taxes, the Pistaljka portal reported.
The state awarded these jobs to one of the largest tax debtors through 42 EPS public procurements, in which “Feromont” was the only bidder 37 times.
And the company “Bauvezen”, the largest tax debtor in Serbia that receives work on public procurement, which was on the “black” list of the Ministry of Construction due to a series of violations such as poor quality of works, known for breaking deadlines, owes the state almost 140 million dinars in taxes , and in just two years, independently or in a consortium, it won works worth three and a half billion dinars from the state in tenders.
At the same time, data from the Tax Administration show that it initiates proceedings against citizens for tax debts amounting to only 150 dinars.
The participation of tax debtors in public procurement is contrary to the Law on Public Procurement, which prohibits the conclusion of contracts with companies that have not settled their tax obligations. On the other hand, the Law protects tax debtors and allows them to do business if they are granted a request for deferred tax payment.
The law also provides for the prohibition of participation in public procurement, which is decided by the misdemeanor court. However, Pistaljka learned from the Office for Public Procurement that no company has ever received such a ban.
“Not a single court decision has been delivered to the office that imposed a ban on any business entity, including the Bauvezen company” – the largest tax debtor in Serbia that gets jobs on public procurements, the Public Procurement Office replied.
“Bauvezen” receives work from Belgrade and state authorities on capital projects such as the construction of a bus station in New Belgrade and the construction of covid-hospitals in Kruševac and Zemun. Just this year, while the media wrote that the mayor of Leskovac is threatening to resign if “Bauwezen” gets another job in that city because it has been reconstructing the square there for more than three years, that very company won twelve new tenders in Serbia.
The majority of those tenders were announced by Belgrade public companies: five by the City Transport Company “Belgrade”, and two each by “Belgrade Water Supply and Sewerage” and the Directorate for Building Land and Construction of Belgrade.
“Bauvezen” entered almost all tenders as a member of the consortium led by the company “Hidroteam Solutions”, founded two and a half years ago. The income of “Hydrot” was 300,000 euros already in the first six months of operation, and even 9,000,000 euros in the second year of its existence.
According to the last published financial report, from 2020, “Bauvezen” had 389 employees and a profit of more than half a billion dinars. The financial report for the year 2021 does not exist on the website of the Agency for Economic Registers, which represents another violation because companies are obliged to submit those reports.
Unlike the accounts of the “Bauvezen” company, which are blocked due to debts in the amount of more than one billion dinars, the accounts of “Feromont inženjeringa” are still active – it can be seen on the website of the National Bank of Serbia.
According to data from the website of the Agency for Business Registers, “Feromont inženjering” has 701 employees and generated more than three billion dinars in revenue last year alone. In the last two years, EPS has won 84 public procurement contracts independently or as part of a consortium, 73 times as the sole bidder.
“Infrastruktur Zeleznica Srbije” also awarded a job of almost four million dinars to the company “TTK Trafik”, which manufactures metal products and owes the state 38 million dinars in taxes. “TTK Trafik” has been on the list of tax debtors for three years, and it got the job from the state together with a group of bidders. The Tax Administration initiated the forced collection procedure, but it still did not block the company’s accounts despite millions of debts.
Only last year, as many as four companies from the list of the largest tax debtors won state tenders.
One of them is the company “Energia Gas and Power”, whose director at the time, Velimir Gavrilović (the energy advisor to Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica from 2004 to 2007, and now an energy consultant), boasted that the company was the largest private electricity supplier in Serbia.
Last year, that company was on the high, fifth position among the largest tax debtors in Serbia, and this year it is on the list of tax debtors in bankruptcy. That company now owes the state 580 million dinars in unpaid taxes, and last year the state awarded it jobs worth 40 million dinars, even the branch of the state EPS “Supply” lost to that company in the tender race.
The company that was part of the Stefanović – Papić – Đukanović dispute
And the company “Tim Systems”, which owed the state almost 30 million dinars in taxes last year, still won four public procurement jobs as the only bidder, from the state Clinical and Hospital Center “Dragiša Mišović” in Belgrade and from the National Insurance Corporation housing loans.
The owner of the company “Tim Systems” is Toni Apostolović, who was once connected by the former Minister of Defense Nebojša Stefanović with the co-owner of the now defunct daily newspaper “Objektiv”, Aleksandar Papić.
“Team Systems” was also the subject of the confrontation between Stefanović and Serbian Progressive Party MP Vladimir Đukanović. Stefanović, responding to the accusations of the former MUP state secretary Dijana Hrkalović, said that Papić pays Đukanović 240,000 dinars a month through the company “Tim Systems”, while Đukanović claimed that certain family members of the former minister of defense lived in the company’s apartment. The company’s accounts have been blocked in the amount of more than two hundred million dinars.
State money also went to the company that deals with security, “Inex plus”, whose directors were arrested in 2018 for transferring money from the company’s account to the accounts of entrepreneurial businesses. That company, as last year’s tax debtor with a debt of almost 60 million dinars, earned almost 400 million dinars that year on public procurement of state-owned companies independently and in a group of bidders.
In addition to tax debtors who earn money from government jobs, companies that for years have been a “permanent item” on the list of the largest tax debtors in Serbia are not operating, their accounts have been blocked, but they are still active. Among them are Marko Mišković’s company “Mera Invest”, Serbian Ambassador to Austria Nebojša Rodić’s company “Magma Prom” and “Termol” indirectly owned by the family of the former owner of “Kurir” Radisava – Raja Rodić.
Those companies owe the state more than three billion dinars and their debts are growing unhindered, even to “Termol”, whose partial owner is, absurdly, a company that deals with tax consulting.
Mišković’s company “Mera Invest”, the second largest tax debtor in Serbia, is demanding money from the state. Her uncollectible debt to the state exceeded one billion dinars, but at the same time she sued the Republic of Serbia before the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). According to the media, “Mera” is demanding 30 million euros, and the dispute is not over.
Despite the fact that the long-standing large tax debtor “Mera Invest” does not feel the consequences of its debts, Pištaljka learned from the Tax Administration that “any amount of unpaid tax liability, even of a few tens of dinars (for example, 150 dinars), can affect the impossibility of the tax obligee to exercise some of his rights before other competent authorities”.
The Tax Administration answered Pistalka’s numerous questions only by citing the provisions of the Law on Tax Procedure and Tax Administration, with the claim that by hiding data on taxpayers, they are actually protecting the interests of the taxpayer and the public interest.
When asked to provide information on whether and when they tried to collect their debts from some of the largest tax debtors in Serbia and how many forced collections there were among the largest and how many among small debtors and in what amounts, the Tax Administration replied to Pistaljka that it cannot disclose that information to the public in order to motivate taxpayers to obey the law. It follows that this knowledge would demotivate them, N1 writes.