Integrity pacts in public procurement: what are they good for, why do we use them and what are the results so far?

On 14 December 2017, Transparency International Secretariat organized the conference “Integrity Pact Stakeholder Event” in Bucharest. It focused on the results of the collaboration between the entities involved in the European project “Integrity pacts”. A relatively new concept in Romania, the Integrity Pact is a civic control mechanism created by Transparency International in the 1990s to ensure integrity and transparency in public procurement.

Mr. Marius Nica, Deputy Minister for European Funds, Ms Vittoria Alliata di Villafranca, Director of the Administrative Capacity Building and Program Implementation II, DG REGIO of the European Commission (EC), Mr. David Ondráčka, Transparency International Executive Director Czech Republic and Transparency International Director, Pascal Boijmans, Head of Unit, Competence Center for Administrative Capacity Building, DG REGIO and representatives of both contracting authorities and civil society partners – independent monitors from Italy, Poland, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal and Slovenia.
Minister Nica stated that, for the Ministry of European Funds and Public Administration (MDRAPFE), transparency and trust in the spending of national and European funds are essential for the efficiency and effectiveness of public investment. DG REGIO’s initiative has been well received by the ministry since 2015 and it is considered a very good solution for increasing the European public’s confidence in cohesion policy, be they direct beneficiaries or net contributing Member States.

Ms Villafranca stressed that the Integrity Pact is a very important project for the EC in general and for Commissioner Corina Creţu in particular, for two main reasons:
1. It is an innovative approach to improving administrative capacity and practices in the public procurement sector;
2. There is a need to use civil society’s expertise and improve its involvement in the decision-making process.

There is an acute need to modernize public institutions and the time has come to find innovative ways to spend public money in order to use them more efficiently, and implementing the Integrity Pact is one solution to achieving these goals. Nevertheless, in order to guarantee long-term success, there is a need for ongoing monitoring of the expenditure process. Since the start of this pilot project and the subsequent monitoring by civil society organizations, we have seen a fairer and more transparent procurement processes, improved competition and confidence towards both authorities and contractors, so that procurement is as efficient and effective as possible. The results so far are positive and indicate the following:

1. The pacts improve communication and consolidate trust between the contractor, local stakeholders and the general public, and limit the communication gap and mistrust between citizens and public authorities in the Member States;
2. It works similarly to an early/preventive warning mechanism against possible public procurement irregularities. For example, independent monitors have already identified deficiencies in tender documents that could have disproportionately limited the number of potential bidders;
3. They can help save public money by preventing irregularities or mismanagement on the one hand and increasing competition on the other, which may result in a better product or service;
4. Pacts are extremely important because they stimulate collaboration. Successful implementation of an Integrity Pact requires joint efforts from all the partners involved and can both strengthen the reputation of a public entity and improve its internal practices.

Ms Villafranca concluded that the pioneers involved in this project – whose work is being monitored at European level by other stakeholders – will channel the public’s desire to demand more accountability and transparency in the use of public funds by guaranteeing citizens’ involvement in the process of spending public money. Irrespective of the status they have in the project – public entity, contractor or monitor – by participating in the Pact, the actors involved improve their capacity and performance so that they can deliver better products and services at fair prices with the aim to meet the needs of citizens at the level local or national.

The discussions then focused on presenting EC’s work on improving Member States’ practices in the public procurement sector. The Commission’s Action Plan on this issue also features the Integrity Pact instrument which is on line with the objectives of increasing transparency, integrity and the quality of public procurement data.

See here the presentation by Pascal Boijmans, DG REGIO: “What is changing in public procurement?

Representatives from different countries, from contracting authorities, the private sector and from non-governmental partner organizations in the project, presented their experience in implementing the Integrity Pact to date.

The presentations are available here:
Anna Vespa, Procurement and Tender Officer, ARST, Italy
Renata Krok, Contract Manager, PKP Polskie Linie Kolejowe S.A., Poland
Communities from Calabria, introduced by Christian Quintili, ActionAid Italy

In the second part of the conference, the participants had the opportunity to choose two of the four parallel debates:
1. Lessons learned from implementing the Integrity Pact: what works and what should be improved
The purpose of the session was to generate a frank and open discussion on the challenges of implementing the Integrity Pact, identifying the main concerns and arriving at a list of solutions. Representatives of TI Bulgaria and TI Hungary, countries where this tool has been used for many years, presented both their experience as well as examples from non-EU countries.

The joint presentation of TI Hungary and TI Bulgaria is available here

2. Strengthening public confidence: overcoming obstacles to civic participation
The purpose of this session was to enable participants to identify and discuss the challenges and opportunities of civic engagement in Integrity Pact projects in various legal contexts and to discuss possible strategies for addressing issues.

The joint presentation of TI Lithuania and ActionAid Italy is available here

3. Integrity in the Law: Integrity Pacts and Civic Monitoring in Law – Challenges and Opportunities?
This session focused on discussing the opportunities and challenges of introducing the concept of Integrity Pact into national legislation. More specifically, the focus was on legal misunderstandings over this instrument and the way in which different contexts can influence its implementation process. TI Italy and a representative of the Region of Sardinia presented the context and the way in which the Pact was integrated into the national legislation of Italy and the way in which the it is currently used.

Presentations are available here:
Chiara Putaturo, TI Italy
Cinzia Orrù, Autonomous Region of Sardegna, Italy

4. Improving transparency and open data use in public procurement
This session focused on the opportunity of integrating open data principles and the need to digitize governance within the framework of the Pact’s implementation process in various countries. Furthermore, the discussion targeted topics such as improving administrative efficiency, transparency, civic involvement and even anti-fraud measures.
Ágnes Czibik, Digiwhist, GTI, Hungary
Carlo Amati, OpenCoesione, Department for Cohesion Policy, Italy

More details about the Integrity Pact tool are available here

The map of monitored contracts is available here

The Pilot Integrity Pact – Civic Instrument for Monitoring Public Procurement, Phase II – Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning is implemented in 11 Member States of the European Union by the Transparency International Secretariat, in collaboration and funded by the Regional Policy and Urban Policy DG (DG REGIO) ) within the European Commission. The pilot project comprises 17 European projects co-financed by the European Regional Development and Cohesion Funds and implemented by 15 civil society organizations. In Romania, the civil society organizations involved are the Romanian Academic Society, Transparency International Romania and the Institute for Public Policy.

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