Turkish PM backs tender meddling as CHP questions motives
Main opposition questions the motivation behind government intervention in cancellation of the national ship contract won by Koç Holding’s RMK Marine after leak of an audio recording of an alleged conversation of the prime minister and the owner of the company that demanded the re-examination of the tender.Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has defended his interference into a tender for a major national defense project, as the main opposition party has turned to a parliamentary query to ascertain whether he manipulated the process in favor of a company known to have close links with his party.
The sequence of events led to the cancellation of an earlier tender won by Koç Holding’s RMK Marine.
An audio recording of alleged conversations between Erdoğan and Metin Kalkavan, the owner of the Sedef Shipbuilding Yard, was recently released on social media.
The prime minister yesterday said a company might have been pushed out of a tender and applied to him, claiming it’s natural for him to act.
“I tell him to sue. In the end the state earns millions of dollar [from these tenders],” he said, putting the blame on the ones for illegally wiretapping these issues.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chair Sezgin Tanrıkulu filed a motion to Parliament on March 3 in order to elicit a response from Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç. Another CHP deputy chair, Umut Oran, followed Tanrıkulu yesterday, questioning whether Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz intervened in the same contract upon an order by Erdoğan, as suggested in the recording.
The first conversation between Erdoğan and Kalkavan in the recording took place on April 16, 2013, five months before the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) canceled the Milgem tender, which had been won by Koç Holding. After asking whether his company had bid for the Milgem project, Erdoğan asked Kalkavan to apply to the Prime Ministry Inspection Board, the Office of Prime Ministry’s Chief of Cabinet and the Prime Ministry’s Communication Center (BİMER), claiming that “full competition was not provided in the tender.”
The second conversation in the recording took place on Sept. 27, 2013, following the cancellation of the tender upon Kalkavan’s complaint. The cancellation decision for the contract to produce six corvette ships was made at a meeting of the SSM, chaired by Erdoğan in August 2013.
Tanrıkulu questioned whether the instruction for changing the original project came from Erdoğan, whether the changes were made deliberately in order to increase the tender price that was originally envisioned as 800 million euros, and whether 200 million of 400 million euros – which was made up of the increase in the tender price – was transferred to the Service for Youth and Education Foundation of Turkey (TÜRGEV) as a donation.
TÜRGEV is a charity NGO that counts Bilal Erdoğan, the son of the prime minister, among its board members.
LPD necessity asked
In late December 2013, the SSM announced that Sedef Shipbuilding Yard had won the Landing Platform Dock (LPD) tender, revealing that Koç Holding’s RMK Marine, after also losing the Milgem project, had been left out.
Both Tanrıkulu and Oran questioned the necessity of certain changes to the LDP project, such as the change aimed at making F-35 fighter jet operations possible.
Oran asked whether the Turkish Armed Forces’ (TSK) inventory included F-35 fighter jets; whether there was a calendar for buying these kinds of airplanes, and what the envisioned delivery timeframe was.
“If there are no F-35 airplanes in the TSK’s inventory, then why was such a change made in the LPD project?” Oran asked. As of Feb. 27, the chief of SSM, Undersecretary for Defense Industries Murad Bayar, said Turkey was likely to start ordering F-35 fighter jets to be built by Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) from 2015 onwards, adding that this would start with an initial two orders.