Kyrgyzstan: Officials Borrow Russian Technique to Hide Tenders
Last month, Kyrgyzstan’s Education Ministry announced two tenders worth almost $3 million to print more than 1 million textbooks. But it appears the ministry did not want just anyone to bid.
Someone involved in posting the tenders on the government’s procurement website included a couple of Latin-script vowels within Russian keywords (written in the Cyrillic script), making it impossible to search for the announcement.
For example, there is no difference to the naked eye between these two words: books and bооks. But the second word contains two Cyrillic o’s. That makes it impossible to find with an Internet search, which requires an exact match.
In the same way, the Education Ministry used the Latin letters a, e and o (which also appear in the Cyrillic alphabet) in its tender announcements, which are worth a total of $2.8 million. Reporters at Kloop.kg, who revealed the trick, recorded video evidence of how the announcements were hidden.
Anyone who didn’t know about the Latin letters would struggle to find the tender announcements. Anyone who did – someone colluding with a ministry official, for example – would have a massive advantage.
Kyrgyz officials didn’t think up this scheme on their own.
Back in 2012, Russian anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny, known for revealing fraud in state procurements there, described how officials “embezzle millions and billions” using this tactic.
The day after the Kloop story, which was widely shared on social media, the Latin letters had disappeared in one of the two announcements. (One remains here.) A day later, on December 12, the Education Minister Kanat Sadykov resigned.
It is the second time recently Sadykov’s name has aired amid corruption allegations.
This past May the State Committee for National Security’s Anti-Corruption Service alleged that an MP had received bribes to enroll 24 under-performing students at the prestigious Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University. Sadykov was criticized for not stopping the scheme.
Editor’s Note: Anna Lelik is a EurasiaNet contributor and an editor at Kloop.kg.