Traces of Ministers in Suspicious Public Procurement (I)

From furniture and cable cars to elite locations on the sea

Among the longest-serving ministers of various departments in the Montenegrin governments since the referendum, Branimir Gvozdenović, former Vice-President of the Parliament of Montenegro and political director of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), is most often called out for potential conflicts between his public powers and private interests.

Branimir Gvozdenović

Since the referendum, Gvozdenović has been the head of three ministries. First, he was the Minister of Economic Development in the government of Željko Šturanović, and then, after the prime minister’s resignation, in 2008 he become the Minister of the Economy in the government of Milo Đukanović. He became the head of the new Ministry of Spatial Planning and Environmental Protection in 2009, where he remained until the end of 2010. After a two-year break, he returned to executive authority in 2012, when, in another Đukanović-led government, he was elected as Minister of Sustainable Development and Tourism. He remained in that position until the end of 2016. From then until the parliamentary elections held in August 2020, in which the DPS lost power, he held the position of Vice-President of the Assembly. In the last parliamentary elections he was second on the DPS list, immediately after the outgoing prime minister, Duško Marković.

A consortium, of which the Montenegrin company Eminent was a member, won a tender run by the Public Works Directorate in 2016 for the construction of a six-seater cable car at the Kolašin 1600 site in the Municipality of Kolašin, while Gvozdenović was still in the charge of Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism. Eminent has for years been among the 50 companies sharing most of the “spoils” of public procurement. Its owner is Dr Ratimir Saveljić, and the consortium also included the Austrian company Doppelmayr Seilbahnen GmbH Austria, with subcontractors. The price offered by this consortium was €8,979,740 – higher than what Doppelmayr had offered independently at a failed tender a year earlier.

Coincidentally or not, according to the public procurement report from 2016, during that year the company Eminent was in 7th place on the list of bidders with the largest contracted procurements in that year, amounting to a total value of €10,070,390. In 2015, Eminent had also been on that list with total contracted purchases amounting to €2,066,597. According to data from the Central Register of Business Entities, the company deals with mediation in the sale of various products.

Bidders from Slovenia, who appealed against the decision on the selection of the most favourable bidder, pointed out, among other things, that Saveljić was already engaged in several jobs at the Electrical Company of Montenegro (Elektroprivreda Crne Gore) at that time, stating that one man cannot perform several jobs at once that require eight-hour working days. “Such an engagement not only renders the Labour Law meaningless, but also seriously shakes the foundations of Einstein’s theory of relativity,” said the Slovenians who complained about the tender.

It is impossible to prove Gvozdenović’s direct connection with Saveljić, but there are a number of coincidences and facts that may indicate that this high-value contract, a couple of years earlier, was intended in advance for contractors from Austria, when the partners from Montenegro were not yet known. Minister Gvozdenović met with Doppelmayr representatives back in 2014 at the International Tourism Fair in Vienna. The Montenegrin team was represented at the meeting by Velibor Goranović from the Department for the Development of Priority Projects of the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism. At that meeting, he presented the Montenegrin tourist and investment potentials, and later he was a member of the Commission for the consideration and valuation of bids, which decided on the selection of the most favourable bidder of the Eminent–Doppelmayr consortium.

Authors: Mikan Milošević and Zoran Radulović 

Text is originally published in weekly newspaper Monitor, available here (in Montenegrin).

This text has been prepared within the project “For the Better Use of Public Money!”, implemented by the Institute Alternative with the financial support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The opinions and views presented in this text do not necessarily reflect those of the Embassy.

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