Controversial businessman outbids others for handling waste in Tallinn31.08.2012, 13:01
Nikolai Ossipenko, the „Road King” of Kohtla-Järve whose companies have for years been winning municipal tenders in Northeast Estonia, is now targeting Tallinn, writes Äripäev.
Ossipenko’s company Ekovir has already outbid others in a tender held by City of Tallinn to find companies to collect and handle waste in five districts in Tallinn, namely Haabersti, Kesklinn, Kristiine and two in North Tallinn.
Formally, the company belongs not to Nikolai Ossipenko, but to Natalia Ossipenko. However, it is run by Tiit Lillemets who is stepson of Nikolai Ossipenko.
City: why all the commotion?
„Calm down, I understand that all three large competitors have put their PR firms hard at work. However, nothing except accepting bids has yet happened,” said Arvo Sarapuu, deputy mayor of Tallinn.
Sarapuu said that the City of Tallinn will now be checking that all documents are in order and that everybody cooperates. „Once this is done we can talk about who qualified and then who won the contract,” he said.
According to Sarapuu, competition between six bidders means that the final cost of the service for the consumer could be very favourable.
Sarapuu says that competitors are using the name of Ossipenko to scare the public. „It’s all part of a dirty waste war where competitors are determined to hold their positions and delay the process by disputing the results,” he said.
Competitors cry foul
Competitors claim that the bid amount does not even cover the company’s costs.
„I doubt that Evikor has even calculated the cost of collecting waste in the capital city,” said Agu Remmelg, business manager of Ragn-Sells.
Argo Luude, CEO of Veolia, added that the City of Tallinn and Evikor may be preparing a scheme which will not lower, but increase the price of the service for the consumer.
„I would ask why such bids are being made right now?” said Luude, adding that he is sensing political games that could go much further than waste collection business.
„Ekovir has never bid for other tenders and I have a question why is it pushing to a market where it has to invest between 1.5 and 2 million euros in equipment alone, in order to meet the terms. The service tariffs that the City expects to see, in the same time, are ridiculous. There is something going on in the back rooms,” said Luude.
Evikor: we are testing the market
Tiit Lillemets, member of Evikor’s board, says that he cannot understand all the buzz around the tender. „We simply wanted to try and see. It’s not illegal,” said Lillemets, adding that he cannot say at this point how big is the investment need in Tallinn.
Lillemets said that he was not surprised about the criticism of competitors since all tenders that have been held recently in the waste collection business have been disputed and gone to court. „I am sure that this tender will also be disputed”.
Target of criminal proceedings
Ossipenko was involved in the largest local government corruption scheme ever uncovered in Estonia. Besides Nikolai Ossipenko, "the Road King" in Ida-Viru, suspects include Kohtla-Järve Mayor Jevgeni Solovjov, suspected of causing nearly 1 million euros of damage to the city's budget, as well as former mayor Jüri Kollo, and 23 private limited companies and 10 sole proprietors, reported Postimees.
Four tenders for road construction and maintenance were rigged between the City of Kohtla-Järve and Nikolai Ossipenko's company.
Other bidders were found to have purposefully offered unrealistically high-priced bids so that Ossipenko's company could win the tenders as a seemingly honest player. Later, the city had to pay the company additional, allegedly unforeseen costs.