Civil society requests unlimited access to information on public procurement

Anticoruptie.md
24/11/2015
Foto: Cornelia Cozonac şi Olesea Stamate // CIJM

Access to information about public procurement is still complicated, though some reforms were developed in this field recently. Some state institutions still hide data about public procurement. This conclusion was reached by several NGOs that monitor a number of 30 contracting authorities in the country under the project "Public money is my money too!" implemented by the Association for an Efficient and Responsible Governance (AGER) and the Center for Investigative Journalism (CIJM). The results of the first stage of monitoring were presented Tuesday, November 24 in a press conference.

According to the project team, every second contracting authority at central level refuses to provide any kind of public procurement information to the civil society representatives.  The State Enterprise "Calea Ferata", the Agency for Land Relations and Cadastre did not react to the letter sent by the members of the monitoring team to request access to information on public procurement. Meanwhile, other institutions, including the National Bank of Moldova and the State Chancellery refused the access to the files on public procurement. The invoked trade secret or confidential information and that the law does not oblige them to provide access to such information.

The situation is slightly better at local level, where only some of the district councils and other state authorities refuse to provide to civil society representatives free access to information about how public money is spent.

According to Olesea Stamate, chairperson of AGER, the Law on Public Procurement has ambiguous provisions on the information to be made available to applicants, while access to public information is provided by other legislative documents.

"We strongly believe that the law on access to information is on our side, or public procurement is carried out from public money and for public interest. Accordingly, the information related to participants in the procurement procedure, evaluation of bids and the main provisions of the contract is public information. Given that public procurement is made of public money and for public interest, data about these should be public, as far as they do not prejudice the rights and interests of individuals or legal entities", said Olesea Stamate.

In turn, Cornelia Cozonac, president of Center for Investigative Journalism said that both the media and civil society representatives must request and obtain access to any information of public interest especially that related to the management of public money.

 "Public procurement is the most vulnerable area related to public money, a fact acknowledged by the Court of Accounts. To achieve greater transparency of the entire process of procurement, both journalists and civil society monitors must follow public procurement in real time. This means access to the whole package of documents, including contracts, so that they can follow the work, observance of relevant deadlines, quality of work, costs etc", said Cornelia Cozonac.

Also, CIJM president stressed that careful monitoring of the whole process by civil society on one hand, and by journalists on the other hand, will force authorities to respect the rules and laws. «The whole procurement process must be transparent so that we can track how public money is spent and the efficiency of the authorities’ actions. These actions are in the spirit of decisional transparency, open government to citizens, principle frequently invoked by the authorities", said Cornelia Cozonac.

Campaign ”Public money is my money too!” started on April 1, 2015 and will end on March 31, 2017. This project is backed by the European Union and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The project aims to monitor the procurement carried out by 30 contracting authorities in the country, including 20 - outside Chisinau. Also, a group of journalists carries out journalistic investigations on problematic cases, corruption schemes, conflicts of interest, influence peddling cases, favoritism and other irregularities detected in the public procurement process.

Anticoruptie.md
24/11/2015

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