Country: Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
|Year of assessment: 2019|
|Procurement value: Approx. € 1,302,768,233|
As far back as 2003, a collaboration between the government of DRC and international partners under the leadership of the World Bank (WB) had aimed at improving the performance of the public procurement system. Despite significant efforts, however, a strong sense of dissatisfaction with the performance of the public procurement system remained, both within the system and with the people of DRC in general.
From this starting point, a MAPS assessment was seen as a key tool for taking stock of the situation and form a baseline from which to measure the gaps between the existing practices and international standards, and then to propose actions for improvement. Additionally, by enlisting them as assessors, the assessment was an opportunity for training a body of national evaluators from key institutions in the procurement system, enabling them to monitor the implementation of the assessment’s recommendations and even support creating additional reform proposals down the line.
In the context of dissatisfaction mentioned above, the WB proposed their assistance to the Government of DRC in conducting the MAPS assessment.
The public procurement system in the DRC consists of four major actors, namely the procurement management units set up within each procuring entity (CGPMP, responsible for operational procurement activities), the ARMP (Public Procurement Regulatory Authority), the Director General of the Public Procurement Control Body (DGCMP, responsible for ex ante control) and the Approval Authority (responsibly for final approval of contracts).
In 2010, the new legal and regulatory framework was put in place. 12 years after its initial implementation a number of weaknesses still exist. Three causes could explain this situation: weak political support, inadequate funding, and resistance to change. The MAPS assessment and the subsequently developed strategic plan include targeted measures to mitigate all of these factors.
The process started in June 2018 with the preparation of the concept note followed in November 2018 by a training session of the 18 experts in charge of the assessment. The assessment itself took place between February and June 2019 and a draft report was issued in December 2019. It should be noted that the conduct of the evaluation was disrupted by the presidential election of December 2018 and the COVID-19 pandemic from March 2020.
In addition to legal and other formal documents, 152 individual contracts were reviewed. Furthermore, a series of focus group meetings were organised with representatives from the private sector and civil society organisations to discuss a list of survey questions prepared by the assessment team.
Extensive stakeholder engagement was done to include as wide an array of relevant actors as possible. This comprised entities from the public sector (both sectoral ministries and auditor bodies, as well as SOEs), private sector (trade associations and private training institutions) and civil society (CSOs, academia and media), as well as a host of international partners.
The presidential election of December 2018 meant that, for security reasons, the review of the sample of 152 contracts was postponed. It was subsequently necessary to organise a "refreshment" training session later in March 2019 and wait for the new authorities from the elections to take office with a view to their ownership of the process.
Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic was a major disruption, causing long delays because of dramatically altered working conditions and priorities for all actors involved in the exercise.
It is important to consider impartiality and potential conflicts of interest when putting the assessment team together. In the DRC case, it was difficult to assess practices of some public procurement bodies (ARMP, DGCMP and CGPMP), since the assessors came from these institutions. To counter this, it was necessary to bring on board an external expert, independent of the administration.
Maintaining full dedication of the members of the assessment team is paramount in ensuring that the assessment is completed according to schedule. In the DRC case, experts that had been retained for the assessment could not always keep fully dedicated to the project, and were sometimes required to do emergency tasks not related to the assessment. This caused delays.
Indicator 9, which deals with the practical reality of the procurement system, was the core of the DRC assessment. All weaknesses and problems in the management/execution of procurement are visible when assessors reviewed the contracts files. While working on the 152 contracts, the experts became aware of the state of deterioration of the system.
Accessing information was a significant challenge, with available information often incomplete or insufficient. For example, the team did not generally have access to accounting documents. This is both an important finding in itself, and something that should be anticipated as much as possible when planning the assessment.
“We had no idea that the procurement system was in such a dire state. This report needs to be disseminated and action must be taken”.
Senior government official during a presentation and discussion of the DRC MAPS report in Kinshasa, April 14th 2022