The Court of Accounts, the third bridge and the new airport
İSMET BERKANThe new method is this: First the state says, “If there is a bridge built here, a minimum of so many vehicles will cross it annually.”
Then, there is a tender organized to build the bridge; participants base their calculations on the state’s assumption that “this many vehicles will cross.” They assess the tolls, check their construction costs and indeed calculate their profits and then bid for the tender.
This bid indicates the money it will give to the state during, let’s say, 25 years of operation. The tender commission selects the highest bidder as the winner.
Both on the third Bosphorus bridge for Istanbul and its ring roads project and also on the new airport project to replace the Atatürk Airport, the tenders were organized according to this method.
In other words, the state determined the number of vehicles to cross the bridge annually and the number of passengers for the airport.
Well, what will happen if after the bridge and the airport are built, the assumed number of vehicles does not cross and the passengers do not come? In such a case, the state will pay the remaining profit to the company.
In that case, then we will have to go back to square one: How did our state determine the number of vehicles that will cross the bridge and the number of passengers that will use the airport? Which scientific criteria did it use? Did it receive consultancy services while it was doing these calculations, writing the tender documents and undertaking an official commitment? If it did, was it from one firm only or more than one firm?
We do not know the answers to these questions either for the bridge or for the airport.
As a matter of fact, if we had a real Court of Accounts, if our Parliament would have acted independently and protected its right to budget, then we would have known all these calculations thoroughly and maybe neither the bridge nor the airport would have been put to tender because it is exceptionally controversial whether both the bridge and the airport will be productive in the economic sense and thus deserving of the necessary investments.
Just as an example: The manager of Atatürk Airport, TAV, is operating the facility with a guarantee of a certain number of passengers, and we have paid money to TAV from the Treasury in some years because the pledged number of passengers did not come. It is everyone’s right to know what the calculations of 100 million to 150 million passengers per year that are being mentioned for the new airport are based on and what the calculation is behind this assumption because in the end, the money will come from us.
The government says, “These investments are being done without the state spending one kuruş from its pocket;” however this is not true. Both the Gebze-İzmir motorway and bay crossing project tender, as well as the third airport tender had difficulty attracting financing because there were no adequate economic assurances. (For the İzmir Bay crossing, financing was found only after the Treasury stepped in; do not be surprised if a similar thing happens for the new airport.)
There is no Court of Accounts in Turkey that has conducted its duty perfectly anyway. At one stage, it was given the duty of “performance monitoring,” but the government was able to turn back on this reform immediately. Now the Court of Accounts is being further neutered.
And the Parliament is silently watching its own power transferred to the government or, moreover, to the bureaucracy, in this way.
İsmet Berkan is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published Dec 13. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.