27 June 2013
European contractors are owed over $3bn after completing works on Polish roads but the country’s prime minister refuses to pay up, saying the construction firms are the ones at fault.
Poland has embarked on a major, EU-backed road-building programme which consists of building a modern motorway network to replace narrow and dangerous roads constructed under the country’s former communist regime, reports Reuters.
Contractors claim GDDKiA, the state roads agency, has not paid them for stretches of motorway they’ve built.
They include Austria’s Strabag and Alpine Bau, a unit of Germany’s Bilfinger, Ireland’s SIAC, SISK and Roadbridge, and a unit of Spain’s Ferrovial.
Six countries have joined forces to write to the Polish deputy prime minister and economy minister Janusz Piechocinski complaining that the unpaid money pointed to fundamental and systemic problems in the way Poland managed big civil engineering projects.
Poland is modernising its road network yet refuses to pay contractors (Credit: Mateusz Gietczynski/Wikimedia)
A total of $3.2bn worth of claims has been lodged with Polish courts but prime minister Donald Tusk remained resolute, telling a news conference: "There is no reason for GDDKiA to make concessions in the face of political pressure."
Written by the ambassadors of Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Portugal, the letter has put considerable diplomatic pressure on Warsaw but Tusk said the document had ‘not impressed’ him much.
The letter, seen by Reuters, has called the outstanding sum "unusual and unprecedented" and asked Piechocinski to look into the matter.
GDDKiA explained the most common reason for payment delays was that contractors’ work had fallen below agreed standards, arguing it had also been forced to terminate some contracts due to failures by contractors.
Poland is expected to announce 50 tenders this year for more national road works with total value of $8bn.