On February 21st the government passed a law for hastening its capacity of policy implementation. (Law 4368/2016)
A last moment amendment submitted a few days before voting in the legislation has offered the Ministry of Defense the mandate to award contracts for infrastructure works, service provision, procurement of goods or leasing with third parties for the organisation, construction and maintenance of hot-spots and open reception centers for refugees. Projects that will occur from this mandate will be related to transportation, accommodation as well as provision of food and medical services
Article 1.a of the amendment also provides that contracts can, due to emergent and unpredictable needs, including national security and public order reasons, be awarded through direct negotiation and without announcements of public tenders. This provision will be exempted from any other legal obligation that might occur from national law but with reservations regarding European law for public contacts.
This has generally been interpreted as an inclusion of the Ministry of Defense into policy making procedures regarding the refugee crisis and as the product of a trade off between Syriza and the leader of coalition gov partner Kammenos who despite repeated pleas for months was rejecting the involvement of the army to building and managing reception centers.
The law also foresaw the creation of a MoD managed board for the co-ordination of projects, in partnership with the Asylum Service and ex First Reception Service. (Now named Reception and Registration Service)
The Ministerial Decree authorizing the creation and detailed structure of this management board was submitted March 7th. The Decree specifies which Ministerial authority is responsible for contract awards in each case. It also estimates 20,000 people to be hosted in spaces created by the ministry and an annual extra budget of 73,988,692 euro for running expenses and maintenance.
This breaks down to (per year), 4,950,000 transportation costs, 19,794,704 accommodation cost, 45,743,988 food provision, 3,500,00 medical services.
This amount will be additional to regular funding of the Ministry of Defense from the national budget and it is intended to occur mostly from EU financial assistance mechanisms.
On March 30th the major piece of legislation (4375/2016) regarding the refugee crisis hit the parliament opening up a new place for a Secretary General for Reception to undertake responsibility for handling the crisis and re-arranging various structures related to it. It also transposes bits and pieces of the recast Asylum Procedure Directive deemed necessary so Greece can provide legal coverage to the implementation of the newly crafted E.U. – Turkey deal.
Article 19.1 of the new legislation also amends the procedures for tenders issued by public law entities and local authorities (municipalities and regional authorities). Authorities will now be able to issue contracts for projects related to emergency needs for services, construction, leasing of venues or mobile equipment and procurement of goods that are related to the function of reception facilities including temporary and permanent accommodation, transportation among venues, food provisions, medical services, funerals expenses, handling of humanitarian aid and storage of goods. The process will also, for these authorities too, be conducted through negotiation and assignment of contacts directly to contractors, bypassing all regular procedures for public tenders and public contacts predicted in national law.
Article 19. 2 of the same law also predicts an exemption from previous legal arrangements regarding the issue of public contacts for projects of procurement, construction works and services provisions that are co-financed by AMIF and ISF. It is particulalry interesting that as a result contracts co-funded by EU funds wont neccessarily undergo controls by relevant auditing state authorities before being awarded.
Looking at the large picture it appears that the government has put in place a new frame regarding the financing of all actions related to the handling of the refugee crisis that by passes the slow administrative structures of the Greek state. Speeding up cash flows for these projects is a positive development given the government is constantly facing administrative challenges regarding the financing of opening up camps or transporting population. The problem is that the exact frame provides for extended in-transparency regarding negotiations and assignment of contracts. For example the extremely in-transparent process of direct negotiation has been chosen over the option of invitation of proposals from a small number of qualified market actors. The latter is a method the government has used already for the provision of container houses some months ago, still without avoiding all allegation for in-transparency.
This is not necessarily proof of wrong doing by itself but a request on the part of civil society for enhanced transparency on the process is most necessary. Especially given that the funding by the state of actions related to the refugee crisis will multiply after the E.U. – Turkey deal was crafted. Incresing transparency would also ensure that project awards and quality of aquired services can be maintained on satifying levels, something crucial for the well being of long-term stranded population in refugee reception facilities.
“For 2016, the Commission has significantly increased the emergency assistance budget under the Asylum Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and the Internal Security Fund (ISF) – the total amount of emergency funding available in 2016 for the refugee crisis now stands at €464 million. €267 million has been earmarked for Greece, out of which €193,7 million is still available to support the Greek authorities and International Organisations operating in Greece in managing the refugee and humanitarian crisis, provided requests for financing are submitted to the Commission. This funding can be made available for the funding of reception centres on the islands, as well as support for return operations (transport and accompanying measures). This funding can also be used for the temporary deployment of additional Greek staff or Member States’ experts deployed to Greece. On March 18th, the Commission awarded an additional €30.5 million from the available emergency funding for Greece to support the Greek Ministry of Defense in providing shelter, accommodation, food and health care to refugees”.