Can you get €300 million for your services for over two decades, without interruption? You might think that this is not possible in an open competitive market, right? Well, yes, it can if you have the right friends in Brussels. The LIFE Program, the flagship initiative of the European environmental policy now under the direct responsibility of the independent agency EASME, has clearly demonstrated this.

There is a prominent consortium of companies that has won all of the tenders on LIFE monitoring. They know how to play the game and the whole market knows that the LIFE Program monitoring tender is earmarked for “them”. This common belief discourages other companies to even try to participate in the respective tender.

But how does the blessed consortium play the game? According to Kassandra’s sources, this consortium “strategically” organised a conference with key staff from EASME and DG ENV a few weeks before the tender deadline while the tender was open, while their competitors were working in the dark to try and understand and respond to tender requirements. Indeed, one week of “working holidays” in a luxury hotel in Prague seems to be an ideal environment.

A perfect locale to quietly get all the right information on how to impress your “evaluators”, to discuss the do’s and don’ts of the process, and as such get a leg up on the tender process while your competitors continue to dream.

The greater question is whether, Julien Guerrier, EASME Director General has any idea about the Prague conference or of the reasons for which the tender has historically been awarded to a particular consortium.

What is for certain is that many in the arena already know who the winner of the tender will be. Perhaps it would be easier to award the tender right now and save the money by removing the obstacles of evaluation committees and the like.

Hyperbole aside, has anybody wondered if this conference was tender neutral? Has anybody checked if the topics discussed and advice given was of any importance to the tender applicants? In Prague, our “hard-working” people had wonderful sessions during the day followed by relaxing dinners under the stars to create the right atmosphere. But the machinery does not stop there.

There are some rumours that some of the lucky Commission staff being present in Prague will be evaluating this tender. Well, this is something for EASME Director General Julien Guerrier to investigate before he signs another contract of €80 million of taxpayer money to the same consortium. Europe needs transparency, not just in principle but in practice.

More on this, coming soon in Kassandra…