Friday, 18 April 2014

HN: Firms with untraceable owners get public contracts in ČR

22 February 2013

Prague, Feb 21 (CTK) - Companies whose ownership is not entirely clear have acquired public contracts for Kc123bn in the Czech Republic in the past four years, daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) said Thursday, referring to a project of association zIndex which monitors the transparency of public tenders.

From 1,638 companies that were checked, 277 were companies with owners who are difficult to trace.

The list of companies with unclear ownership was topped by IT firm Autocont with contracts worth Kc632m.

Although contracts placed by ministries and regional governments are obtained by companies that are Czech at first sight, traces of their ownerships often lead to foreign countries such as the Netherlands, France, Germany and Cyprus, the survey showed.

"We can say that companies receiving public contracts are statistically more likely to come from tax havens than an average Czech company," the survey's main author Jiri Skuhrovec said.

The fact that a company hides its real owners does not automatically mean that it takes part in manipulating contracts, according to the authors of the project.

"On the other hand, it should be the interest of companies themselves to reveal their owners when they trade with the state," Skuhrovec said.

The pressure on disclosing the final owners of companies has been growing recently. Members of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower lower house of the parliament, approved the cancellation of anonymous shares on Tuesday. However, this is not necessarily the end of companies with unclear ownership, according to HN.

"They (companies) can hide their owners well even though they pretend that they are transparent," the paper said.

Company zIndex collected data for the project for six months from financial statements and annual reports available on the Internet. It then compared the extent of a company's non-transparency down to the final owner in relation to the volume of contracts which it had obtained from the state.

First ten companies ranked by volume of obtained contracts in relation to non-transparency of ownership structure:
Firm Volume of contracts (in millions) Share of traceable owners (in pct) Bearer shares
1. AutoCont CZ 632.5 0 -
2. VOKD 330.5 12.9 yes
3. CENTROPOL ENERGY 424.0 40.0 yes
4. Metrostav 2,324.1 92.5 -
6. HAGUESS 117.8 0 yes
7. mc one 107.4 0 yes
8. PURO-KLIMA 101.7 0 -
9. VYDOS BUS 166.8 40.4 yes
10. SYNER Morava 195.3 50.5 -

Source: zIndex

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