Future of data box system uncertain as competition to operate it runs aground

Photo: Tomáš Adamec

The future of the Czech Republic’s “data box” repository system, an online platform via which official documents can be lodged with the state authorities, is unclear after a tender process for what is one of the country’s largest public contracts was thrown out.

Photo: Tomáš Adamec
Since 2009 private companies, state organisations and individuals (for whom usage is not compulsory) in the Czech Republic have been filing documents with state agencies via data boxes.

Over 800,000 of them are now in existence and almost 440 million communications have been made via the system.

The national postal service Czech Post receives half a billion crowns a year from the Ministry of the Interior to operate the data box system but farms out the actual running of it.

The original contract to run the scheme is held by O2 IT services, a division of O2 Czech Republic (now owned by the PPF group of the richest Czech Petr Kellner).

Czech Post announced a tender process last year to find an operator to take over once the current contract ends at the close of 2017.

However, the anti-trust office has now abrogated that competition.

The chairman of the Office for the Protection of Competition told iDnes.cz that Czech Post had not taken the correct approach with regard to “the option of purchasing the data box system from the selected candidate”.

The decision to cancel the competition has not yet come into effect and Czech Post can still fight it. A spokesperson for the mail service, Matyáš Vitík, told the news site it would indeed lodge an appeal.

Mr. Vitík said Czech Post had prepared a high-quality and transparent tender process, overseen by one of the best law firms in the country.

O2 IT Services had been one of the bidders in the competition and after its sole rival – Olomouc firm Tesco SW – was excluded became the clear favourite, iHned.cz reported.

But it was O2 IT Services that moved to have the competition annulled. IDnes.cz reported that it went to the anti-trust office with a complaint that Czech Post had revealed too much information about the system to rivals in the competition documents.

However, O2 itself has refused to make any comment, the news site said.

Given the relatively short time remaining to prepare a new tender process, Kellner’s O2 may well continue running the data box system into 2018 under the existing contract before Czech Post manages to come up with an alternative solution.