High suspicion that the 155,000 Euro Tender was awarded through falsified documentation
Company “ARF LLC” signed a contract with the Municipality of Gjilan for “office supply” with a value of 155 thousand Euros, using a document suspected to be forged.
In the bidding stage, this company submitted to the Municipality of Gjilan a reference issued by the Ministry of Defense, claiming to have successfully completed a contract with the ministry, at the time it was requested by the Municipality of Gjilan.
This document helped the company meet the tender criterion, that the economic operator has successfully completed three contracts of a similar nature in the past three years.
“The economic operator must provide evidence that it has successfully completed contracts of a similar nature in the past three years from the date of publication of the notice, with a minimum value of 180,000.00 Euro”- states the tender notice.
References submitted by company “ARF LLC” in the tender procedure for office supply, opened in November 2021, have been secured through access to the tender dossier.
One document included in the “ARF LLC” tender dossier was a reference claiming to have been issued by the Ministry of Defense on January 31, 2019, for a contract value of 80,363 Euros.
This reference doesn’t have a stamp of the Ministry of Defense, the institution which is claimed to have issued it. In fact, this submitted reference bears no stamp at all.
The reference suspected to have been forged and submitted by “ARF LLC” in the tender procedure in the Municipality of Gjilan
What is the version of the Ministry of Defense for the document?
Clarifications have been requested from the Ministry of Defense for the document the company submitted to the Municipality of Gjilan in the tendering procedure.
“No, it has not been issued by the Director of the Procurement Department of the Ministry of Defense” – stated the reply from the Media Office of the Ministry of Defense regarding the reference in question, which was also shown to the officials of the Ministry.
The document states that the reference was issued by the Ministry of Defense for Tender with Procurement No. 21700/17/010/111, issued on January 31, 2019, thus highlighting the changes made to the document and the lack of a stamp.
“The recommendation of the contract manager “In the capacity of the Contract Manager, I can inform you that the supplies have been carried out in line with the terms of the contract”. The contractor has meticulously complied with the terms of the contract, both in terms of time and quality” – stated the reference.
The Ministry of Defense stated to have issued a reference for “ARF LLC”, which company had a contract with the ministry, but that the reference submitted to the Municipality of Gjilan includes elements that indicate it was not issued by them.
“The attached reference “Provision of office material for the needs of KSF and MKSF” with Procurement No. 21700/17/010/111, with a value of 80,362.25 Euro, issued as reference on 31.01.2019, was not issued with this Procurement No., nor the date of issue, but rather Procurement No. 21700/ 16/010/111 dated 31.01.2018″ – said the reply of the Ministry.
Original reference issued by the Ministry of the Kosovo Security Force, now the Ministry of Defense
The tender process required at least three references of successfully concluded contracts by the company of a similar nature, in the past three years, from the date of publication of the notice, with a minimum value of 180,000 Euro.
The tender was published on November 1, 2021, meaning that references required by the municipality would have to be issued after November 1, 2018. The original reference of the Ministry of Defense was issued with the date of 31.01.2018, i.e., 45 months from November 1, 2021, the date when the tender was opened.
Whereas the reference submitted to the Municipality of Gjilan holds the date of January 31, 2019, indicating the reference was tampered with, in order to make it possible for “ARF LLC” to meet the tender requirement.
In a conversation with the Director of the Procurement and Contracts’ Department of the Ministry of Defense, Afrim Maxhuni, who is the only official that issues references for companies that had a contract with this institution, the reference in question had been discussed.
The reference used by “ARF LLC” also includes the signature of the Director of Procurement, Afrim Maxhuni.
In this conversation, he confirmed he has not signed or issued the reference submitted by the company to the Municipality of Gjilan. Mr. Maxhuni said he has issued a reference with other information. “This reference you are inquiring about, dated January 31, 2019, with procurement number 17, was not issued by the contracting authority of the ministry, namely me. I issued a reference with procurement number 16, dated January 31, 2018, which is valid,” said Mr. Maxhuni.
He said the information regarding the suspicion of falsification of documentation after the questions sent for this interview. “We have now been informed, by you, about this document. Whatever action needs to be taken regarding the misuse of an official document, we will take it” – said Maxhuni, among other.
He said he has not informed the Police on this matter yet, but that the people who manipulated with the official document must give him their explanations. “I can only talk about documents I issue. When it comes to that document, I don’t know, it is the responsibility of the one who produced it” – he said. “Why did he do it, that’s on him. I believe he must be held responsible, if he tampered with the document. The suspicion here is that he altered the document and law enforcement institutions should intervene.”
On the other hand, the Procurement Office of the Municipality of Gjilan, after having seen both documents, stated that, as a Contracting Authority, it did not occur to them that there could have been forged documents in the dossier, despite the submitted reference not having a stamp of the issuing institution.
“Based upon your request regarding the company ARF LLC, according to the presentation of references, as Contracting Authority, it never occurred to us that an economic operator (EO) could submit a forged reference. Moreover, as a contracting authority (CA) we ask them to show us the contracts and references for supplies from other CAs” – stated the response of the Municipality of Gjilan.
The Municipality of Gjilan said they will request additional information from the company in question, but failed to confirm if they have already done so. In addition, in its email reply, the Municipality of Gjilan confirms it will request additional information from the Ministry of Defense. “As the Contracting Authority, when we suspect there is a forged document, we request additional information regarding the document from the company, starting with a request for an original copy of the document, and then we will also request information from the CA or the minister for assistance in relation to the suspicion we observed during the evaluation of bids, references or other documents, for proof they were issued by the respective CA” – further states the reply of the municipality.
However, the Municipality of Gjilan has not replied whether they will take steps against the company “ARF LLC”, in case the suspicion that the document is forged is confirmed.
What the company suspected of forgery is saying?
On the other hand, the owner of “ARF LLC”, Avdi Koca, in a short phone conversation, asked for the questions to be sent in writing, via e-mail. “Write us an email and the relevant officials responsible for this work will respond. Write us an email, and we’ll be in touch. We’ll communicate via email, to keep records” – said Koca, when asked about the matter. “I’m the owner, but I don’t work there alone” said Koca when asked if the documentation for the tender was compiled by him, as the owner.
In the written response, company “ARF LLC” stated they were not aware of these “irregularities”, and the documentation was prepared by their father, now deceased. “Regarding to your questions about the tender, we were not aware, at all, of the irregularities you cited” – read the reply of company “ARF LLC”. “We want to inform you that the tender dossier and the documentation for submission of bids were prepared by our father, Halil Fazli Koca, now deceased. After the loss of our father, we, his children, tried to continue with the business our father left us” – said further the reply of the company.
The company says that the allegedly forged reference was taken from documents prepared by their late father.
“As for this reference, which you cited to have had irregularities, we took it from the documents that the deceased left us, and we have not analyzed its contents” – read the end of the reply.
However, the company has not answered the other questions sent. The company has not offered access to the requested copy of the reference it received from the Ministry of Defense.
They also did not answer whether the company they now run has tampered with the said reference.
A request for access to public documents was sent to the Municipality of Gjilan, requesting a list of all products it was supplied with by company “ARF LLC”, on the basis of the contract, as well as the invoices for such products. However, until the publication of this article, we have not accessed them.
Article 99, paragraph 2 of the Procurement Law stipulates that companies that submit falsified documentation may be banned from participating tenders in public institutions for 1 year. “Upon a written request of a contracting authority regarding the submission, by an economic operator, of false information or documents forged, the Public Review Body (PRB) is obliged and is authorized to review and disqualify the economic operator from participation in public procurement up to a period of one year” – Public Procurement Law.
Forgery, or submission of false documentation in a tender procedure is also punished by the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kosovo. This provision defines a punishment with a fine and imprisonment of up to 5 years.
“Whoever intentionally violates the public procurement rules during a bid for awarding a public procurement contract, presenting false documentation, illegal secrecy agreement or undertakes any other illegal action for the purpose of fraud in public procurement procedures and for purpose of influencing the decision of a contracting authority in the public procurement procedure, shall be punished by a fine and by imprisonment of up to five (5) years” reads Article 415, par. 1 of the Criminal Code.
This article was produced under the project “Good governance: stronger public procurement and policy-making” funded by the European Union and implemented by Democracy Plus (D+). Its contents are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of D+ or the European Union.