A full Inception Report and Implementation Plan were written for the project: Increasing the Integrity of Public Procurement in Moldova, implemented by the Partnership for Transparency (PTF) and its partner organization in the Republic of Moldova, IDIS Viitorul (IDIS).
This two-page summary is designed to give a brief overview of the findings in the Inception Phase and the plans for implementation of the project, which will run for a little over two years, from September 2020 through June 2023. The goal of the project is to enhance the transparency, fairness, and effectiveness of public procurement in Moldova by training and empowering civil society actors and investigative journalists to engage in informed and responsible monitoring of public procurement. An in-depth training curriculum developed by the project team will equip the participants with the necessary knowledge, skills, and tools to identify irregularities at various stages of the procurement cycle, analyze data, and evaluate risks of abuse that merit investigation by appropriate and relevant control and enforcement bodies.
While a small number of Moldovan civil society organizations (CSOs) are already actively involved in monitoring public procurement, the primary goal of this project is to expand the number of CSOs and investigative journalists engaged in monitoring, through a comprehensive training program. The training will begin following the launch of the project on September 30, 2021, in Chisinau, Moldova.
The training program will familiarize participants with tools such as the e-procurement platform MTender, the Business Intelligence (BI) tool, and a range of other tools identified by the project team such as the OpenMoney platform, https://openmoney.md, a tool for monitoring public money, developed with support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and Revizia.md, a platform developed by the Association for Efficient and Responsible Governance (AGER), built around red flags in procurement.
In interactive sessions, and with the help of case studies, the training will also provide the participants with tools for communicating with procurement and control bodies to improve the response rate and corrective actions taken by these bodies. Through a competitive process following completion of the training, a small number of CSOs and investigative journalist organizations will be selected for one year of support funding and technical assistance. This support will enable them to apply the competencies acquired in the training to actual monitoring of public procurement.
Before embarking on the training components of this project the team gathered basic information to better understand, based on beneficiary needs, the most useful topics to include in the training program. The methodology of data collection, contributing to the final Inception Report, included a desk review of all available documents related to public procurement and the project’s scope of work; twenty-three qualitative interviews with twenty-seven stakeholders, including local stakeholders and bilateral and multilateral organizations; and an online survey conducted with CSOs and investigative journalists to gather information on their needs with regard to procurement monitoring training.
The team then conducted a risk assessment. The identified risks range from extreme to low-level threats, yet each must be considered and accounted for. Specifically, extreme risks are those typically associated with the actions and/or inactions of Contracting Authorities (CAs), such as withholding information or perpetuating conflicts of interest. High risks typically relate to deviations from good procurement practices and process, such as failure to adequately plan for procurements, support for noncompetitive actors, and blocking the involvement of CSO representatives.
In addition to findings from the above activities, the Inception Report also includes an overview and stakeholder analysis of the primary actors in public procurement, focusing on contracting authorities, control authorities, economic operators, civil society organizations, and investigative journalists.
Based on the work conducted during the project inception phase, PTF and IDIS concluded that only providing training to CSOs and journalists was unlikely to achieve the full potential of public procurement monitoring. Consequently, a decision was made to adopt a more inclusive approach by inviting economic operators (EOs) to participate in parts of the training which would be relevant to their role. Ideally, the participation of this wider audience in the training will increase the capacity of all parties involved and lay the foundation for ongoing dialogue among all stakeholders. To foster this dialogue, PTF and IDIS will host a roundtable event among CAs, EOs, and a select group of CSOs and investigative journalists to discuss how Integrity Pacts could enhance transparency and increase competitiveness in procurement. Integrity Pacts are agreements between procuring authorities and bidding companies/selected contractors, and monitored by a civil society organization designed to ensure transparency in all stages of a particular procurement process. The objective of the roundtable will be to encourage the piloting of Integrity Pacts in at least one project to demonstrate proof of concept.
Ultimately, the Inception Report concluded that—despite the risks and persistent challenges—this is the perfect time to upgrade the knowledge and skills of CSOs and investigative journalists, as well as to train additional organizations and individuals in these categories to engage in competent and responsible monitoring of public procurement in the Republic of Moldova.