Investigation: Burying public money near Chyzhouka-Arena?

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The construction industry is in demand before the World Ice Hockey Championship in Minsk. Just imagine: it costs over Br45 million ($4500) to install a metal post in the capital.

Minskreklama invited bids at the beginning of the year.  It was necessary to choose a company that would install so-called supports for advertisement banners. SSU#4 won (subordinate to Minsk City Executive Committee). It was only necessary to install the supports that Minskreklama had already purchased.

Рэкламная расцяжка на вуліцы Ташкенцкай ля "Чыжоўка-Арэны"

A banner near Chyzhouka-Arena.

 

Six metal pillars with strings for three banners were installed near Chyzhouka-Arena. The work cost 270 711 325 roubles (about $27 thousand). It means that the installation of one support cost more than Br45 million. Cool beans? We also thought so.

The supports look like ordinary metal lighting masts near Minsk roads. It only costs 1.8-2 million roubles to install such a mast (the work and transportation), Minharsvyatlo informed. Add concrete and you will not get more than 5 million roubles. It makes 7 millions instead of 45.

Euroradio has tried to find out whether it was some financial fraud.

We asked Homelablreklama to calculate how much it would cost to install two metal supports for a banner in Homel.

A competent specialist calculated that the work would not cost more than 20 million roubles. The sum includes 8 cubic metres of cement, the rent of a manipulator (a machine with a hoisting crane) and the work itself. It means that its costs 10 million roubles to install a support in Homel – four times cheaper than in Minsk. However, Homel roads are narrower and never have more than three lanes. The road near Chyzhouka-Arena has four lanes.

We photographed the supports in Minsk and consulted the Russian company EnergoKom producing and installing metalware. We asked them to calculate how much it would cost to install two supports for a banner in a four-lane road in Moscow. EnergoKom can do it for 45000 Russian roubles (about Br12.6 million). The price includes the work and the delivery of concrete. Let us add the cost of concrete to it (10 million Belarusian roubles). A manipulator is usually available at any decent enterprise. No matter how hard we tried to increase the price, it did not exceed Br22.6 million. It is almost the same as in Homel.

It means that you can install the same supports in Moscow four times cheaper than in Minsk. Even the fact that Alyaksandr Lukashenka himself will be driven under the banners does not justify such an astronomic price.

Minskreklama: “Our banners are always under wind loading”

 

Maybe the supports near Chyzhouka-Arena are special. Maybe these ordinary pillars are packed with anti-terrorist systems. Anyway, they look rather old – they have been painted many times and are covered with scratches.

We asked Minskreklama about possible unique features of the supports.

“This is a different technique. Our banners are under constant wind loading,” the financial economic department of Minskreklama explained the difference in the cost.

Euroradio: Do you mean that the banner can act like a sail and the supports will be under pressure?

The financial economic department: “Yes, the supports need to be much harder and you need more concrete. Weaker masts will simply fall down due to the wind loading.”

Nevertheless, they asked Euroradio to phone the following day to make sure that Br270 million had really been paid for the installation of six supports.

However, they refused to comment on the issue in the end referring to ‘official secrecy’.

“Nobody is trying to deceive you because everything in our country is so transparent that you cannot lie,” deputy CEO of Msinkreklama Tatstsyana Kalitsina told Euroradio. “I can guarantee it. We paid the reasonable price”.

We decided to ask the winner of the tender about the issue – Special Building Department #4 subordinate to Minsk City Executive Committee.

Euroradio was sent to the production and technical department. We still wanted to find out why the installation of one support cost Br45 million.

“This is secret information available only for the client and contractor. We cannot make it public,” SSU #4 replied.

Euroradio: Can you tell us the normal market price for such work?

SSU #4: “All supports are different. The contractor makes a project for every support. It depends on the banners. We are just doing the job.”  

So, we decided to consult the company that had designed the banners (it is indicated in the documents) – Architect Kostich’ Creative Workshop.

“We designed something for civil events very long ago. It was in the 20th century. We have nothing to do with the supports,” the company told Euroradio. “It is very sintering why the sum is so big.”

The door of Dzipraplan, a company that participated in the tender

Besides SSU #4, three other exotic enterprises took part in the tender. According to the papers, each of them asked about Br300-320 million for the work. It seems that the companies have to be decent. But not a single one of them has a website.

We contacted close corporation Belbudoulya. They flatly refused to discuss the huge cost of their offer:

This is commercial secrecy. Why do we have to explain it to you? We won’t do it.”

One more company – closed corporation Belbudaunitstva 2003 did not even seem to try to win the tender:

“We had to buy the foundation on our won, to dig, to rent equipment and settle everything. You also had to work at night because it was necessary to switch off the trolleybus line. The sum was not huge without a reason.”

Why did they take part in the tender then?

It was impossible to phone Dziraplan that had asked Br308 million for the installation of the supports. The company has no website and is not mentioned in any directory inquiries. There was only one advertisement on the Internet – Dziraplan was looking for a trowel worker. The phone number is dead now.  

We went to Holubeu Street where the office of Dziraplan was situated. It was a room in a nine-storey block of flats. There was nobody inside. The company was closing down and would soon leave the office, the head of the housing cooperative said.

Does Dziraplan look like a company able to take on a project costing 300 million roubles? Nevertheless, the company is mentioned in the bidding documents.

***

What does Br45 million for installing a support mean? Is the wind so heavy in Minsk that it makes builders use incredible amounts of concrete? Or is there some financial secret between Minskreklama and SSU #4? It is really not clear why the installation of supports for banners in Minsk costs four times more than similar typical projects.