The postgraduate program is an innovative programme in public procurement provided by the Center for Good Governance Studies from Babes-Bolyai University Cluj Napoca one of the biggest universities in Romania in partnership with other authorities: National Agency for Public Procurement, National Council for Solving Complaints, Fight Against Fraud Department-DLAF, Freedom House Romania and Expert Forum.
We consider it an example of good practice because it was the first course of its kind in our country and still is the only one offered in the region (the western part of Romania) and is combining the theory and the practice in the field involving mixed teams of professors and practitioners in public procurement. The topic is very actual because efficient public procurement is a challenge to many Member States, irregularities and lengthy procedures, as well as limited administrative capacity are some examples of the problems tackled during the programme.
It is a vocational programme that provides training for a particular career path in public procurement.
The courses are taught by experts in procurement from the university and practitioners in public procurement, from the National Public Procurement, from Fight Against Fraud Department-DLAF, the National Council for Solving Complaints, administrative judges and lawyers specialized in procurement, with extensive experience in the field.
The postgraduate programme targets graduates in public or European administration, staff from contracting authorities interested in the procurement field aiming in getting promoted or employed in high public management positions or to private beneficiaries involved in the absorption of structural funds.
What was the challenge intended to be addressed? Why? What did work well? What did not work well? What have been the main achievements? How did you evaluate its success? What has been the change brought by this good practice?
-The postgraduate degree in public procurement offers a whole range of benefits, equipping the candidates for a series of future roles, while also developing their wider skill-set in this field of study.
-Benefits: well prepared experts in the field of public procurement.
What are the enabling conditions (e.g. institutional, economic, social/cultural, regulatory) that needed to be in place or played a facilitating role for the good practice to be successful?
- Involving practitioners that will build legal skills and knowledge to equip candidates to operate in the interface between legal principles that apply in the public procurement environment and the strategic objectives of interests to organisations in the public and private sectors.
Concluding good partnerships with:
- National Agency for Public Procurement – regulating (legislative function) body, providing advisory and operational support, ex-ante (tender documentation and tenders’ evaluation process) and ex-post verifications, monitoring and international representation; the entity responsible for implementing the Romanian Public Procurement Strategy;
- National Council for Solving Complaints - non-judiciary, administrative first instance solving complaints lodged against public procurement procedures;
- Fight Against Fraud Department - DLAF - ensures, supports and coordinates the fulfilment of Romania's obligations with regard to the protection of European Union financial interests, as per Article 325 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union; is the contact institution of the European Anti-Fraud Office - OLAF within the European Commission;
- Freedom House Romania – a NGO that promotes freedom, democracy the rule of law and human rights with expertise in international projects in the field of public procurement;
- Expert Forum – one of the main actors working on the justice reform and rule of law, implementing projects in Romania and in the region on public integrity, monitoring public spending, including procurement.
What are the challenges, barriers or limiting factors encountered? How have they been addressed?
Financial constraints/pressure. The programme is not funded.
Feasibility & Sustainability
What are the elements that need to be put into place for the good practice to be sustainable (institutionally, socially, economically, etc.)? If applicable, indicate the total costs incurred for the implementation of the practice. What are the benefits compared to total costs?
In order to be sustainable, the programme should be a good one with an updated curriculum, that meets the market needs.
Strong leadership (good management) in order to monitor its outcomes and results. Using monitoring and evaluation systems to measure outcomes is essential for tracking progress as well as identifying areas for improvement.
The programme needs to have a good marketing and strong partnerships.
Replicability & Upscaling
What are the possibilities of extending the good practice more widely? What are the conditions that need to be in place for the good practice to be successfully replicated in a similar context? What are the steps that should be taken/respected to ensure that the good practice is replicated / up-scaled, but adapted to the new context?
The postgraduate programme is replicable. Other universities from Romania have developed similar programmes, but with different courses/practitioners.
Leadership is important. The institution providing the postgrad programme needs to be sure that sufficient resources are dedicated to implementation and that best practices are shared widely.
What would have facilitated an earlier and/or bigger impact? What are the key features that should be kept in mind if this would have to be implemented again? What would you do differently if you could go back in time? What could have been done better?
Orientation towards the labour market.
Interdisciplinary approach of the curriculum.
Mixing academia with practitioners is a winning idea.
Please provide some information about the context and initial situation that can help in fully understanding the action (e.g. information about the national system, applying regulations, etc.)
Public procurement in Romania, a dynamic and unstable from law perspective area, raises problems in applying and interpreting legislation to both contracting authorities and participating companies as bidders. The vagueness and ambiguities of the law are manifested both in the regulation of the manner in which tenders are drafted and submitted, as well as in the enforcement of appeals.
Romania’s budget relies more heavily on EU funds than most MS due to its comparatively low level of economic development as measured by GDP per capita. Since Romania joined the EU in 2007, significant changes have been introduced in the public procurement system. The Romanian governmental system is strongly centralised, including in procurement matters. Despite its high level of centralisation, this system remains quite complex and involves numerous different institutions whose competences are not clearly distributed. Administrative capacity is an issue at all levels of government. Even the public procurement regulatory and control bodies organised at the central level are often understaffed and receive limited training on public procurement matters. At the same time, the regulatory environment is fast-changing. As a result, the application of procurement practices can vary substantially over time and across institutions, making the system difficult to efficiently oversee. Corruption as well as budget constraints are perceived to be significant barriers to achieving greater value for money in the procurement system.
Romania adopted a comprehensive National Strategy for Public Procurement in 2015. As already mentioned, lately, Romania has made some improvements in the legislative and regulatory framework of public procurement, and is constantly pursuing further reforms to improve the overall system. For instance, the creation of a joint working group gathering both components of the ANAP (National Public Procurement Agency), as well as the CNSC (National Council for Solving Complaints) to work on instructions and guidelines to harmonise the interpretations of national and European legislation on specific sensitive issues.
At the same time, Romania has also made some progress in fighting corruption, and in bringing a greater number of cases to trial and ultimately, conviction. In addition, several mechanisms have been created to detect a possible conflict of interests at all stages of public procurement procedures and to identify and sanction fraudulent practices. Finally, the centralised set up of the e-procurement system seems to be adapted to stimulate the use of a common tool, SEAP, by contracting authorities and bidders to achieve the ambitious targets fixed at national level.
Despite the progress made in recent years, public procurement in Romania continues to be a subject of concerns. Procurement legislation is generally considered to lack coordination and consistency, and to require frequent revisions. Secondary legislation and implementing regulations are often seen as contradicting the primary laws, resulting in inconsistent implementation. This inconsistency makes it difficult for honest practitioners and potential suppliers to keep up with the regulations, while making it easier for those with ulterior motives to manipulate the system. The same holds true for the institutional set-up, which is composed of multiple actors with often overlapping responsibilities, resulting in inefficient operations and inconsistent decisions and guidance to contracting authorities. The absence of clear and practical guidelines interpreting the law is a source of uncertainty for both public practitioners and bidders. The administrative capacity is another core challenge for Romania whose structural reforms and absorption of EU funds are often delayed by the lack of implementation. The progress in tackling the lack of trained staff in public procurement has so far been limited and the administrative burden for bidders is still one of the highest in the EU. Furthermore, even though the fight against corruption has become a national priority, there is still a high resistance to integrity and anti-corruption measures at political and administrative levels. The lack of a strong complaint resolution mechanisms, and of effective enforcement of court decisions also remains problematic.
Romanian procurement practitioners are hobbled by a complex, frequently changing and often even contradictory legal structure that confounds honest brokers as it creates opportunities for others to take advantage.
Understaffing and lack of sufficiently skilled personnel is a limiting factor for many contracting authorities, as well as for the regulatory and control bodies at central level. Adding to the issue of understaffing is the lack of expertise in specific public procurement matters. As a result, contracting authorities frequently rely on outside consultants to prepare tender documents. However, outside consultants come with their own issues such as lack of impartiality. Furthermore, work carried out by consultants is not always embraced by the authority, further limiting their added value. Similar difficulties often appear during the implementation phase.
That’s why this type of postgraduate programmes was more welcomed in this context.