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Another Robbery Of The Citizens: The Infectious Disease Unit Of The UKC Maribor Is Now 51 Million Euros More Expensive

In recent months, construction projects have become almost exponentially more expensive under the current government. Railway stations, flood rehabilitation and other infrastructure projects have become significantly more expensive from the preparation of the project documentation to the tendering process for contractors. Among other things, the construction of the infectious disease unit at the University Medical Centre (UKC) Maribor has – understandably – become more expensive after European funding was swapped for funding from the domestic budget.

The construction of the infectious disease unit was initially supposed to be financed from European Union funds. The investment was estimated at 54 million euros, which would have been fully covered by the European Union. However, the Ministry of Finance, headed by Minister Klemen Boštjančič, removed the project from the list of projects financed by the European Recovery and Development Plan. The official explanation for this action from the Ministry is that there is a possibility that the hospital would not be built by 2026, which would jeopardise the European funds, which can only be drawn down until the end of the year, the newspaper Delo reports.

In just seven months, the project has doubled in price, meaning that a square metre of the new hospital will now cost 5,728 euros. And there are still many more needs in the University Medical Centre for additional investments.

The estimated investment for the construction of the infectious diseases ward has risen from 54 million euros to 105 million euros, of course, after funding was transferred from the European funds to the domestic budget.

The Ministry of Health applied for a building permit on the 20th of July last year already but has not yet received it. The Office for Control, Quality and Investments in Healthcare of the Republic of Slovenia (UNKIZ) had only paid the necessary municipal contribution at the beginning of this year. However, according to the Ministry, they can expect the building permit this month. In spite of this, the construction timeline has only been delayed by a few months, from the planned construction in autumn 2026 to the end of 2026. Given the timeline, the Ministry could still draw down European funds, but they are apparently unwilling to do so.

“No control from Brussels, no fear of prosecution”

Why is that so? The Ministry has not yet explained the doubling of the price and will probably find it difficult to justify it. However, there has been speculation recently that the current government is deliberately halting the drawing of EU funding because of cartel arrangements between the construction companies, because the European Union has been keeping a close eye on the progress of the projects and their finances during the financing process, and if corruption is suspected or the price of the project is suspiciously high compared to similar projects, it will demand a thorough audit, and the penalties in the event of any irregularities are extremely high. However, as the control of Slovenian public finances is limited and even biased, construction companies can artificially inflate the price of an investment, which will be significantly overpriced, by secretly colluding.

Even Matej Lahovnik, former minister of finance and renowned economist, wrote on the X social network that “if there is no control from Brussels, there is no fear of prosecution: as long as the plan was to build the clinic with EU funds, the price was 54 million euros, but since it will be financed by the domestic budget, it has doubled in seven months to 105 million euros.”

T. R.

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