- The World Bank supported procurement reforms in Mongolia, by helping civil society and the government work together.
- Efforts such as these improve transparency and accountability within a country which is one of the key goals of the 2-year-old Open Government Partnership of which is Mongolia is a member.
- The Open Government Partnership’s annual summit, October 31 to November 1 in London, brought together more than 1,000 delegates from 60 countries.
October 31, 2013―Today, Ulaanbaatar’s streets are teeming with cranes. There is new construction in every direction. The past 20 years have been transformational for Mongolia as it has transitioned into a democracy with a flourishing economy. And, it is yet to meet its potential, with vast mineral wealth as yet untapped. Mongolia’s capital Ulaanbaatar is home to about 1.1 million – almost half the nation’s population. And with the help of its new-found riches, the city’s road system and infrastructure are now being strengthened to meet the growing needs of its people.
Throughout the country, the road system is especially important. Mongolia has vast expanses of land with distant towns that can only be connected to each other and the pulsing capital by road. Due to the country’s harsh winters, road construction also has a very short-timeline and contracts to build roads need to be adhered to.
The government often enters into contracts with private companies to mine its natural resources as well as to construct roads and infrastructure to provide important services to citizens. Mongolia’s enormous resource boom and its associated risks of the resource curse has heightened the need to establish a culture that limits corruption and allows the successful creation of services for citizens.
Government Engages Citizens on Contracts
To that end, Mongolia amended its Public Procurement Law in 2011 to capture the unique way in which government and civil society are collaborating to establish effective institutions and policies – and in particular to make procurement more transparent and accountable. This new law includes a formal role for civil society in evaluating bids for, and monitoring implementation of, public contracts, placing Mongolia at the forefront of disclosure and participation in public procurement.
Responding to the law and the unique opportunity that Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Mongolia now have to participate in procurement and budget process the Public Procurement Partnership of Mongolia was created in 2012. “The importance of this partnership between government and civil society cannot be overemphasized,” said Zahid Hasnain, senior public sector specialist at the World Bank. “With capital expenditures growing at an unprecedented rate – over thirty-fold in the past decade – ensuring transparency and accountability of these public funds will be essential if Mongolia is to avoid the ‘resource curse.’"
This is the first time that CSOs in the country working in procurement have advocated for regulatory changes as a joint network with a unified message. This coalition of 60 CSOs is working to build awareness, participation, and accountability around public procurement.
”We have the same goal in the end: better procurement,” said Khurelbaatar Gantsogt, State Secretary of the Mongolian Ministry of Finance, referring to the shared objective of government and civil society in Mongolia. The Ministry of Finance now incorporates requests from the Partnership in the new rules and regulations for procurement. At the district level the partnership also works with members to access contracts and engages them in bidding and contract monitoring.
“This example of collaboration is an important first step toward institutionalizing citizen participation in the procurement system,” said Robert Hunja, Open Governance practice manager, World Bank Institute (WBI). “The acceptance of civil society is a key piece of establishing a culture of open contracting – a collaborative effort to enhance disclosure and participation in public contracting."
The World Bank and WBI have supported procurement reforms in Mongolia, in particular by helping the Partnership develop a united message and working with the government to structure the network and engage potential members.
In late 2012, the Ministry of Finance adopted new implementing procedures for CSOs participating in bid evaluation committees that included the use of specific reporting templates and a new web portal for CSOs to use when reporting on the performance of bid evaluation committees.
The Public Procurement Partnership has engaged the government in four regions of Mongolia and is beginning to monitor the award and implementation of roads contracts. While the pilot projects are still in their early stages, the Partnership has already achieved significant changes in two of the pilot regions in Uvurkhangai and Huvsgul. Work is now beginning in Ulaanbaatar and Umnogobi, the other two pilot areas.
The importance of this partnership between government and civil society cannot be overemphasized. With capital expenditures growing at an unprecedented rate – over thirty-fold in the past decade – ensuring transparency and accountability of these public funds will be essential if Mongolia is to avoid the ‘resource curse.’Zahid Hasnain, senior public sector specialist at the World Bank
The partnership reviewed the main roads of the capital cities of Uvurkhangai and Huvsgul and gathered evidence, including from citizens of the main recurring problems in all roads. They found that often roads were washed away after being built as drainage systems were not included. The local governors’ office in Uvurkhangai and Huvsgul agreed to changing technical specifications for new local roads contracts so that new roads would be required to include drainage and other specifications to ensure road safety. They also involved representatives from the monitoring organizations in working groups to craft roads master plans for the cities. Sustaining the momentum of the Partnership’s efforts will prove critical to the successful adoption of an open contracting culture in Mongolia.
Efforts such as these improve transparency and accountability within a country which is one of the key goals of the 2-year-old Open Government Partnership of which is Mongolia is a member. The Open Government Partnership’s annual summit, October 31 to November 1 in London, brought together more than 1,000 delegates from 60 countries to share experiences on how openness can improve public services, drive economic growth, and reduce poverty and corruption.