COVID-19 public procurements have been plagued by many problems and corruption risks
Today, March XXX, 2022, the Center for Civil Communications (CCC) published the Semi-annual monitoring report on public procurements related to COVID-19 protection, based on in-depth monitoring of 40 public procurements for goods, services and works whose contracts were awarded in the first half of 2021. Targeted public procurements represent 38% of all COVID-19 tender procedures organized in the analyzed period. The value of these tender procedures accounts for 5.7 million euros, i.e. 36% of cumulative value of all COVID-19 public procurements organized in the analyzed period.
The monitoring has detected a number of key problems and corruption risks, as follows:
- COVID-19 public procurements in 2021 have been plagued by many problems and corruption risks, although institutions had an entire crisis year (2020) to gain relevant experience.
- Although they have procured same goods, services and works, there is no alignment/harmonization among institutions in respect to description of these procurement subjects which is observed even among institutions that have same or similar needs (e.g., clinics, COVID centers, administration bodies, etc.).
- Prices at which goods were procured are highest in tender procedures presented with only one bid or only one acceptable bid after the bid-evaluation process resulted in exemption of other bids. This situation is best represented by tender procedures for procurement of protective gloves that were marked by competition and resulted in unit price of 2.43 MKD, while tender procedures presented with only one bid have attained unit price of 11.21 MKD.
- Often there is no correlation between the price and the quantity of procured goods in the sense of attaining lower price for higher quantities and vice versa. Hence, 5,000 respiratory masks N95 were procured at the price of 9.73 MKD, while the procurement of 60,000 masks with same specifications attained a unit price of 41 MKD.
- Oftentimes, the procurement’s estimated value is several times higher than prices attained on the tender procedure or actual market prices. This is indicative of unrealistic procurement planning that could imply high risk provided that contracting authorities are purposefully leaving space for signing contracts at unrealistically high prices to accommodate corruptive behavior and action.
- Not a single public procurement from the monitoring sample has complied with the law-stipulated obligation to provide detailed elaboration of procurement needs in the sense of explaining why the institution needs goods/services/works in indicated quality and quantity.
- Some tender procedures are concealing discriminatory elements in detailed and voluminous descriptions of procurement subjects, although the standard indicated therein does not include all characteristics enlisted.
- 20% of tender procedures included exemption of bids, whereby 26 from total of 93 bidders had been exempted, accounting for around 28%.
- As regards performance of public procurement contracts, the focus is put on material and financial aspects, with little or no consideration concerning quality of delivered goods/services/works. This monitoring effort observed cases in which contracting authorities have procured quantities that are significantly higher than those planned.