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Swiss officials sidestep procurement law: report

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14:40 CEST+02:00

The Swiss federal administration awarded 361 contracts last year without first putting the requests out to tender, a newspaper report says.

Any public contract worth more than 230,000 francs ($ 234,960) must first be put out for tender.

In 2011, the administration signed off on an average of one such contract every day without requesting any bids, newspaper Tages Anzeiger reported.

Last year, the total value of contracts above the 230,000-franc threshold that were awarded by the administration without bids amounted to almost 376 million francs ($ 384.1 million), the newspaper revealed.

Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf awarded 100 such contracts, with an estimated combined worth of 116 million francs ($ 118.4 million). Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann has tripled the value of awards for contracts over the threshold since Doris Leuthard ran the department in 2009, raising the total to 79 million francs ($ 80.6 million).

Last year alone, Urs Ursprung, former director of the Federal Tax Office, awarded 35 contracts to Insieme for a failed computer project. The discovery of these awards lost Ursprung his job.

The newspaper found that the Department of Defence had actually reduced the number of contracts over the threshold to 27 million francs ($ 27.5 million), a quarter of the total two years earlier. A spokeswoman said this was due partially to the introduction of clear guidelines but also periodic inspections.

Exemptions to the 230,000-franc rule exist where very specific technical requirements need to be met, or where the intellectual property of a particular contractor is relevant.

Not all of these awards are a bad thing, lawyer Christoph Jäger told the newspaper.

“There are cases in which a direct award is in absolute conformity with the law and in addition is cheaper," he said.

Nevertheless, Jäger explained that tenders have positive effects, not only because they limit the opportunities for corruption, but also because those entering into them often offer better prices.

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