A 13.5 million euro contracts for the construction of a passageway in Baneasa, North Bucharest, which is aimed at improving road traffic at the main entry point to the Romanian capital, was delivered to a Portuguese company on the basis of direct negotiation and not public tender. Transport minister Ludovic Orban claims he had nothing to do with the contracting procedure despite it was him who first announced in 2007 that the works would be done by Portuguese company Lena.

Minister Orban announced on Tuesday that works at the passage way have officially begun, restricting road traffic in the Baneasa area.

The national road management company CNADNR provides the 13.5 million euro contract to Lena Constructii, a subsidiary of Portuguese company Lena Engenharia e Construçoes.

CNANDR explained HotNews.ro that they did not launch a public tender in this regard because the Portuguese group also operates another working site in the area.

But the Romanian law on public procurement says direct negotiation may be used for infrastructure works only in the case of contracts valued at less than 500,000 euro.

The project of a subterranean passageway in Baneasa was first announced in 2005, when Lena Constructii was contracting works for the improvement of National Road 1 north of Bucharest, in the Baneasa area. In February 2007, former Transport minister Radu Berceanu announced the passageway would be up by November the same year. In May 2007, current minister Ludovic Orban announced a new date for the conclusion of works - late 2008.

CNANDR said two months ago that works at the passageway would end by April 2009.