Blatant disgrace at the procurement authority

Blatant disgrace at the procurement authority

Public tenders have always been a good stage for corruption and favoritism. It is the principal area where the much-talked-about triangle of politician, bureaucrat and businessman most effectively operates, and where society’s resources are unfairly granted as favors. Many people have gotten rich through ill-obtained gains in public tenders. 

Among the chief building blocks of the economic program that was put into effect in 2000 and strengthened in 2001 to help lay the foundations for a modern economic system was the establishment of an independent Public Procurement Authority (KÝK) to prevent corruption in public tenders, enable healthy competition in this respect, and improve efficiency. I vividly recall people’s enthusiasm back when this institution was established following much preparation, after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union (EU) put the squeeze on.

Bureaucrats weary of corruption allegations, contractors whose prestige was tarnished due to this label, as well as honest entrepreneurs doing business with the state were all impassioned.

The establishment of this institution had been long-delayed - as political authorities were to shed some of their initiatives in the allotment of public tenders and lose their capacity to provide benefits to their supporters - but it had been formed at long last. 

At the beginning of 2002 the KÝK law passed. Some argued that a very sound system had been introduced, having taken into account past experiences. However, the law that was to go into effect at the beginning of 2003 had its first amendment in June 2002 before it went into effect. 

The current government had a “distant stance” toward the procurement authority, regarding it as threat to “national will,” as it did toward all independent institutions. The “double road” project and the intention to allocate business to new contractors caused this government to make changes in the public tender law. Despite EU reports, almost 20 amendments were made. The number of exceptions increased and the monitoring powers of the KÝK were decreased by those amendments. 

KÝK took its share of what happened to all independent institutions; veteran staff were eliminated by statutory decrees, while vice presidents of the institution, its chief legal consultant and department heads were removed before the end of their terms. The rights of the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodities Exchanges (TOBB) and Turkish Confederation of Employers’ Unions (TÝSK) to appoint members to the board were revoked. 

No president since May 

President Hasan Gül, who himself had a finance background, was appointed as the first president of the authority by the government. His term ended in May 2011. No president has been appointed to the institution since then, and acting presidents are currently running the KÝK. Former president Gül had told journalists that there might be a small amount of embezzlement in the system and said he would fight corruption to the end. He left without looking back.

We are now watching the adventures of a personality who was the vice president of Ýller Bank in this government’s term, then board member of KÝK. He then formed his team by transferring co-workers from the ministry. 

The accomplishments of this person and the institution were talking points in Ankara for a long time. As a result, the Public Procurement Authority, which was formed to prevent corruption and favoritism in public tenders has now become a source of corruption in itself. 

The changes made since it was formed, the stance of political power and the mentality of the current government - in power for a long time - are all summarized above. Looking at this course of events, am I not right in saying that this scandal in the institution was obviously approaching?

It is not known whether the last National Intelligence Organization (MÝT) incident and the unfolding allegations of corruption in KÝK have any connection. I can only say this: Some people may be coming to their senses now, but the forming of a modern economic system was being prevented from the start. The powerful staff, who have been in active duty for a long time, have been eroding those acquired rights since the beginning. 

I reiterate this all the time: A political mentality that does not have the intention of forming an orderly healthy market economy and managing it transparently, cannot have genuine human rights and freedom aims.

Erdal Sağlam is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece appeared on Feb. 21. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

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