{"title": "Parties Drain off Millions by Graft-Ridden Public Procurements","content": "
Last year saw Bulgarian businessmen slip under the table a total of BGN 55 M in order to secure public procurement contracts, says an annual report of a local public policy institute.The average bribe for a political order accounted for 7,4% of the contract's worth, according to the report of the Center for the Study of Democracy.It claims that last year political parties used public procurement competitions as a tool for funding pre-election campaigns, taking advantage of 'the circle of companies' that encompass them.Estimates show that the amount of state funding, diverted to parties, varied between BGN 320 M - BGN 370 M for last year alone.Public procurement orders saw a sharp rise last year and towered to BGN 3.3 B, making up 31% of the national budget. The Black Sea town of Varna tops the ranking with nearly 200 public procurement contracts secured, followed by the capital Sofia, where their number is two times lower.The report notes a decrease in tender bidders, who are apparently put off by corruption - ridden practices.Following a fall in corruption levels in 2004, the seventh annual report of the Center for the Study of Democracy notes an alarming trend upwards.Petty corruption has been reduced over the years, but there has not been really any cases of high-level corruption that has been prosecuted, the report says.The European Commission has repeatedly warned Bulgaria that its entry into the European Union could be delayed by a year until 2008 unless it steps up corruption fight and speeds up reforms.