Bell voices concerns over public procurement legislation

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American companies do not want to compete against firms being led by the relatives of Hungarian political decision makers, U.S. Ambassador for Hungary Colleen Bell said yesterday at a conference organized by Transparency International on the occasion of the International Anti-Corruption Day yesterday, Hungarian daily Magyar Nemzet reported today.

Commenting on recently adopted legislation, which allows the relatives of top politicians to apply for public procurement tenders if they live in separate households than the officials, Bell reportedly said it is “not accidental” that “such practices” have been banned in numerous countries. The legislation, however, has been defended by Cabinet Chief János Lázár and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán as “the strictest” in Europe.

Bell has been openly critical towards transparency and corruption in Hungary and said that until Hungary approaches public procurement tenders in an unbiased manner, U.S. companies will stay at home. She added that during negotiations with American companies, she has on many occasions been told that they avoid entering the Hungarian market due to alledgedly corrupt practices, Magyar Nemzet reported.

In a recent report by Transparency International (TI) Hungary published in early November, it was revealed that EU-funded projects originating in Hungary are overpriced by on average 20-25%, factored in to the approximately HUF 1 trillion ($3.5 billion) that Hungary receives in project grants from the EU every year.  “It is not in the interest of the authorities to tightly control the spending, so overpricing is practically hard-wired in the system,” TI public funds program director Gabriella Nagy said in the report.

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