GSM license auction monitored by Transparency International
The Bulgarian Government enlisted the assistance of Transparency International Bulgaria to ensure that the public auction of the second GSM mobile phone license was conducted in a transparent and accountable manner. The auction, which is considered to have been the most transparent public bidding process in south-eastern Europe, took place from 15-18 December 2000. Out of 42 companies who applied to bid, five applicants satisfied the criteria published in the Government Gazette. The auction, which raised USD 135 million, was won by Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE).
Transparency International Bulgaria declared that the bidding process had been transparent and had proceeded in accordance with the rules agreed upon in advance. A team of 15 national experts in the fields of telecommunications, economics, finance and law devised a mechanism to monitor and evaluate the auction - and provided the necessary technical expertise to ensure the compliance of procedures with national law. The Transparency International team was completed by the inclusion of Claude Hovnanian, a French expert on procurement standards with wide international experience.
One unsuccessful bidder, the Italian consortium TIM International, stated that this public auction had been the most transparent of all public auction exercises in south-eastern Europe. Transparency International Bulgaria also drew praise from the Bulgarian government. According to Ventsislav Karadjov, Programme Director of Transparency International Bulgaria, "the transparency of the auction has sent out a signal to potential investors that Bulgaria is now 'open' for business".
In 1999, when a legal framework was being put in place to introduce transparency and accountability in the country's economic reform process, the Bulgarian government and the Bulgarian Privatisation Agency selected Transparency International Bulgaria to monitor the privatisation of the Bulgarian Telecommunication Company. Transparency International Bulgaria evaluated the privatisation exercise and alerted the Bulgarian Government to shortcomings, including a lack of transparency, and the government decided to terminate the process and to postpone the privatisation until summer 2001.
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