Open Government Initiative (Anti-Corruption Program)
USAID supports the development of adequate systems of government auditing and public procurement in an effort to promote public governance that is more transparent and accountable to the citizens
Photo: USAID Mission Director Mike Fritz (3rd L-R), OECD/ SIGMA keynote speaker Piotr-Nils Gorezki, USAID Open Government Initiative Project COP Grant Wilson and the DPK Consulting (OGI implementer) Principal Robert Page, opening the September 2006 International Public Procurement Conference in Sofia, organized by the USAID/ OGI Project to affirm the most effective international best public procurement management practices for maximum transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds.DEVELOPMENT CHALLENGES Significant steps have been taken by the Government of Bulgaria (GOB) in recent years in the public governance sector to establish the overall framework of integrity and the institutional set-up of a system of good governance based on laws, institutions and supporting practices. After 1997 Bulgaria adopted a list of specific political, economic, and administrative measures against corruption. This has resulted in a steady trend towards gradual reduction in corruption levels. While a large number of coordination mechanisms have been set up, capacity for cross-cutting policy formulation, implementation and monitoring is still weak. In addition, high level political corruption remains an issue that prevents the adoption and implementation of a thorough set of consistent and efficient measures. According to public opinion polls, corruption still stands high on people’s list of preoccupations – third after unemployment and low incomes. Corruption is widespread in healthcare and education. Further steps need to be taken, particularly to strengthen internal controls throughout central government and to audit political parties’ finances more stringently.
USAID INVOLVEMENT USAID’s anti-corruption programs started in 1997 with support to civil society organizations, addressing the issue of corruption through monitoring and watchdog work. USAID’s anti-corruption activities have ever since built on the demonstrated commitment of key GOB institutions to reform. The Agency’s program has been reorganized to strengthen GOB’s institutional capacity to prevent corruption and enhance transparency and accountability, especially in the government audit, internal controls, and public procurement areas. Complementary work has been done to stipulate a stronger role for Bulgaria’s supreme audit institution to audit political parties’ finances, and by civil-society tasks supporting anti-corruption public awareness, monitoring of public administration work, and civic investigation of corruption allegations. Mission tasks related to corruption prevention have been further developed to respond to recent requests from GOB to meet specific requirements of Bulgaria’s EU accession. These efforts have focused on the objectives to streamline Bulgaria’s public procurement and government auditing systems.
GOAL The objective of USAID’s anti-corruption program is to improve accountability mechanisms in Bulgarian public
administration by supporting the development of systems for internal control, enhancing the quality of supreme audit, and streamlining public procurement.
The first goal of this activity is to assist the Government of Bulgaria in strengthening its government auditing system that comprises of internal controls, supreme audit and the corresponding parliamentary oversight and follow-up actions.
The second goal is to strengthen Bulgaria’s public procurement system and provide continued assistance to sectors where corruption risks are high. The program aims to eliminate the preconditions for corruption resulting from poor internal control and scarce management responsibilities.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION The current USAID anti-corruption program provides technical assistance to a large variety of stakeholders on cross-cutting issues in the areas of government auditing and public procurement reforms. The National Audit Office, the Ministry of Finance, the Public Procurement Agency, and major ministries benefit most from USAID assistance. As well, where linkage exists, business and professional associations receive technical assistance from USAID to enhance the effectiveness of their communication with these government institutions. Major tasks include:
• Encourage acceptance and implementation of management responsibility for internal control in central public administration;
• Improve monitoring and reporting performance of audit bodies in Bulgaria’s public sector;
• Strengthen public procurement integrity and transparency at the national level;
• Develop extensive procurement reform activity directed to deal with specific sectors, including Health and Public Works;
• Gather support for comprehensive procurement reform by supplying information to the public, private sector suppliers, the legislature, government officials, and businesses;
• Increase public access to financial information of public officials and financial statements of political parties.
SUCCESS STORY Public Procurement Register. In 2005 a new Public Procurement Register with the Public Procurement Agency was developed and launched. This quality system for dissemination of procurement information enforces the basic principles of transparency and openness, and provides incentives for greater competition among bidders to generate savings in public spending. The Register is fully compliant with EU standards and will be a vehicle for connecting Bulgaria to the EU internal market, diminishing trade barriers and creating opportunities for business beyond national borders. It will foster a higher level of trust in Bulgaria and thus encourage additional investment – domestic and international.