Scottish Nationalist EuroMP for the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, Winifred Ewing, has attacked the European Commission for awarding a number of EU contracts to a company registered in the Bahamas, where national legislation prevents the disclosure of the identity of company shareholders.
The company in question, Geographic Information Management (GIM) Belgium, and its parent company GIM Luxembourg, are majority owned by the Bahamas based Kival Consultants. GIM has been awarded eight contracts by the Commission in the past five years.
Ewing, a member of the Parliament's European Radical Alliance grouping, said: "The Bahamas is one of the places that are known to have laws that make it impossible to verify the shareholdership of companies. Does the Commission agree that it is not advisable to conclude contracts with companies of which the majority shareholders are located in such places," he said.
The European Commissioner responsible for the budget, Erkki Liikanen, confirmed that GIM had been given four contracts for producing maps as part of the EU's Phare programme for central and eastern European countries.
Liikanen said that as the contracts were worth less than the Ecu50,000 threshold for publication in the EU's 'Official Journal' they were agreed by private treaty. The Commissioner also confirmed GIM were awarded four contracts in areas other than foreign aid, one of which was also not published.
"All these contracts were awarded in accordance with the procedures for public contracts laid down in the financial regulation and the public procurement directives," Liikanen said.
"The services provided by the company were satisfactory. There were no problems with the planning or performance of the tasks the firm was asked to carry out," he said.
On the issue of whether contracts should be awarded to companies whose ownership is unknown, Liikanen said the main criterion for vetting tenderers for EU contracts is the payment of tax and social security contributions.
To check against tax avoidance, the Commission can demand proof of payment, and will carry out specific investigations if a tenderer or contractor is believed to have connections with any illegal organisations, he said.
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