Gerard Sanders, Deputy General Counsel, EBRD
Country Delegates and Colleagues from the African Development Bank
It is a real pleasure to welcome you today on behalf of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development at the opening of the AFDB EBRD North Africa and SEMED Regional Public Procurement Conference. The conference is launching the Banks’ latest public procurement policy research: the EBRD SEMED Public Procurement Sector Assessment report and the AFDB assessment of public procurement laws in Tunisia and Mauretania.
We at the EBRD are very happy to welcome you here in Marrakesh marking one of our first meetings with the governments of North Africa and SEMED following the extension of the Bank’s mandate to southern and eastern Mediterranean countries last year.
The EBRD was established 20 years ago as an international institution supporting governments as they made the transition to a market economy in response to emerging markets in central and eastern Europe. From the beginning, the EBRD has fostered the development of new laws and policies across its countries of operation in accordance with its mandate. These laws and policies can ideally facilitate the legal and business culture necessary for economic transformation. With new countries of operations, collectively named SEMED, on board the Bank is preparing to support your economic development and, thus our interest in national policies and law-making in the region. Following the inclusion of Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia within the Bank’s mandate, the EBRD undertook an assessment of commercial law in the SEMED region with a public procurement sector assessment forming part of this initiative.
At the EBRD Office of the General Counsel, where we manage the EBRD Legal Transition Programme and the Procurement Department responsible for the EBRD SEMED Public Procurement Sector Assessment, we understand the need for robust public procurement legislation as a necessary cornerstone in the process of modernising countries, providing public services efficiently and encouraging investment in the infrastructure.
As a major investor in the region, the Bank supports the development of sound public procurement policies and is truly concerned about the efficiency of procurement processes. The procurement policies of national governments have an additional transitional impact on the development of market economies and the EBRD promotes reform of public procurement regulation and seeks to lead by example.
The EBRD’s own Procurement Policies and Rules are based on the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement. We are proud of the fact that the Bank’s own operations over the past 20 years have been without significant procurement problems. This is the outcome of procurement policies based on international best practice which have engendered confidence in the transparency of decision-making and stimulated private sector bidding for public contracts. In the regions where we work, it has also increased cross border trade opportunities. Greater competition in public procurement ensures governments receive better value for money and this is what we advocate.
This conference is launching the results of the latest public procurement research in the region. This research benchmarks national procurement policies against current international best practice, as expressed by the 2011 UNCITRAL Model Law on Public Procurement and the 2012 text of the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement. We have invited Caroline Nicholas from UNCITRAL and Anna Mueller from the WTO to join us today. We hope the expertise they bring will add sparkle to discussions of assessment results in the context of your policy objectives for public procurement reform.
These days, due to fiscal restraint in public spending, public procurement is at the heart of the reform agenda for many governments. We are here to tell you that we understand the pressure that a commitment to reform brings and we are prepared to be of assistance within the Bank’s mandate.
While working with governments on public procurement reform we have observed different approaches to reform and a number of success stories, as seen in Albania, Georgia, Montenegro, Portugal and Turkey. Today we welcome delegations from Portuguese and Turkish public procurement agencies. They will share with you the reforms they have introduced and offer first-hand experience of the effect of those reforms. In other countries, we have seen reforms that lacked political support or were abandoned due to implementation difficulties, leaving the public sector without the procurement regimes they need.
We hope that the Bank’s research into the public procurement laws and practice of the SEMED countries and the opportunity to discuss the current level of development--in addition to the strengths and weaknesses of the regulatory frameworks in place--will assist you, investors and the international community. The review of public procurement 'laws on the books' and the survey of 'laws in practice' includes an analysis of the review and remedies procedures which provide vital safeguards to private sector suppliers and contractors participating in public tenders.
Working with AFDB, we have decided to highlight the case of Tunisia. Here is a case study where the AFDB assessment results formed the basis for developing a reform action plan with the Tunisian government. This plan will ensure that the most suitable policy tools will be used to achieve national policy goals.
Let me wish you a day full of fruitful discussions on public procurement policy-making. We hope you will be inspired by the impetus for reform and find the means to create the national public procurement systems that can provide the tools you need for economic development.