June 15, 2017 / 3:12 PM / a year ago

Bolivia replaces state oil company chief, calls for bidding review

LA PAZ, June 15 (Reuters) - Bolivian President Evo Morales on Thursday said the government had dismissed the president of state oil company Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB), citing an allegedly flawed $149 million contract to purchase drilling equipment.

Morales named Oscar Javier Barriga as the new head of the company, replacing 35-year-old Guillermo Acha. He also called for a detailed review of YPFB’s purchasing procedures after seven mid-level YPFB officials were jailed pending trial on charges related to the deal.

The contract with Italian drilling equipment manufacturer Drillmec was canceled in April after Energy Ministry investigators raised allegations of irregularities in the bidding process. Drillmec had won the contract in February.

“We’ve seen that the procedures were bad, and the prosecutors will complete the corresponding process,” Morales said at an event at the presidential palace. “The contract has been annulled, so there is no economic loss due to the drill purchases.”

Acha, who took over the helm at YPFB in 2015, could not be immediately reached for comment. He has repeatedly said he had no knowledge of the bidding process. The country’s justice department has not ruled out including him in investigations.

Drillmec, owned by oil services company Trevi Finanziaria Industriale SpA, said in April that the bidding process was completely transparent and demanded the government honor the contract. (Reporting by Daniel Ramos; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by W Simon)

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