USAID-Tarabot, in partnership with the Ministry of Planning, is working with the Government of Iraq to make use of its investment budget through fair and transparent procurement systems, ultimately leading to a more favorable environment for international businesses, and better services for the Iraqi people. In the past, government entities relied on disorganized, paper-based systems and antiquated processes that hindered transparency and efficiency in procurement. The Government of Iraq increasingly recognizes that large-scale projects require expertise that international vendors offer, and sound procurement practices are essential to attracting them to Iraq. USAID-Tarabot works with the Ministry of Planning to deliver complementary capacity building activities, systems reform, and incremental cultural change with the ultimate goal of a unified procurement system aligned with international standards. Tarabot has provided over 2,000 individuals with training on procurement processes, and facilitated practical application through ongoing technical support. Government partners are now implementing their capital investment budgets with greater transparency and efficiency, owing to improved procurement procedures.
Procurement planning is the foundation of Tarabot’s procurement reforms. It is a process whereby stakeholders can determine their particular procurement needs and requirements, and how they can be met. Procurement plans help to create a strategy to guide decisions on what consultancies are needed and how to source them. In response to instructions issued by the Ministry of Planning, and with the assistance of Tarabot, a growing number of Iraqi partners are now using standardized methods to plan their procurement activities. With Tarabot’s support, 30 Government of Iraq entities have drafted annual procurement plans, informed by yearly budgets. With well prepared plans, government partners are able to improve their ability to complete the contracting process on time by defining key activities and deadlines.
Tarabot’s procurement reforms enhance transparency in contracting by leveling the playing field for consultants and firms. They help to create an environment conducive to fair and open competition in the tendering and award of contracts, and build the confidence of the private sector in the government’s bidding process. USAID-Tarabot has supported 13 of its partner entities to prepare tender and contract documents for advertisement through the design of terms of references, evaluation of requests for proposals, use of prequalification documents, bid evaluation criteria, and workshops on bid opening and evaluation. Through this assistance, partner entities are equipped with the know-how to adequately identify procurement needs, specify requirements, and prepare and manage tenders for the bidding process.
USAID-Tarabot promotes the use of standard bidding documents (SBDs) as a central pillar of its efforts to reform procurement processes. In partnership with the Ministry of Planning, Tarabot is working to implement a program to assist Government of Iraq entities to adopt SBDs through workshops and applied technical assistance in the application of SBDs on pilot projects. As part of a concerted effort to build the capacity of the Ministry of Planning to implement a national procurement system, Tarabot advisors work alongside ministry staff in workshops and on-the-job trainings to ensure the transfer of knowledge and anchoring of sound skills and practices.
The public release and broad distribution of tenders are among the key requirements for an effective and transparent procurement system. In 2011, government entities were posting tenders on their own websites or through local newspapers, limiting the potential pool of applicants and expertise to respond to government needs. To remedy this, USAID-Tarabot supported a key facet of procurement reform by assisting its Government of Iraq partners to subscribe to dgMarket, an open access web portal and the largest public venue for tenders and consulting opportunities worldwide. Government entities that have subscribed to dgMarket increased from zero to 17 with the support of Tarabot, and 10 entities have successfully announced opportunities through this venue.
Many Government of Iraq partners are now applying the procurement processes they have learned, with some completing the entire procurement cycle. Tarabot has supported governorates and key service ministries to prepare tenders for important consultancy and public works contracts such as the design of a sewage network in Basrah, the design and construction of secondary schools in Ninawa, the procurement of vessels and tugboats with the Ministry of Transport, and the design and construction of hospitals with the Ministry of Health.
In the case of the Ministry of Transport, Tarabot supplemented the training of 171 ministry staff on procurement processes with hands-on support in their application. Tarabot worked alongside ministry staff to guide them in the preparation of prequalification documents, terms of reference, and a request for proposals for the design and construction of vessels and tug boats valued at US$380 million. Tarabot conducted bid opening and evaluation workshops for ministry staff to support the release of this tender, and provided technical assistance in drafting and posting invitations for prequalification. Tarabot helped the ministry to subscribe to and advertise the tender on dgMarket, an open source international web portal for the announcement of contracts. The tender was advertised in July 2013, and received 23 expressions of interest; it was awarded to an international shipping firm in December of that year.
In July, 2014, after months of technical support from USAID-Tarabot, the Governorate of Babil awarded a $10 million dollar contract to Mantid International, LLC, an American consulting firm, to develop a five-year investment strategy (2015–2020) and to implement their 2014 capital investment plan. Tarabot provided technical support for the development of a request for proposal, its announcement on dgMarket, bid analysis, and the preparation of a short list.
Through the tendering and award of these contracts, Government of Iraq partners have set a precedent for the successful application of the entire cycle of procurement practices promoted by Tarabot, including the use of standard bidding documents.
To ensure the integrity of Iraq’s procurement methods and ensure timely access to information, USAID-Tarabot is also working with Government of Iraq partners to introduce record management systems and encourage the reporting of procurement activities. With Tarabot’s assistance, 19 partner entities have reformed their record management systems to facilitate accountability in recordkeeping for procurement activities. Ten government entities are now documenting and reporting on their procurement activities, indicating work progress and communicating it to decision makers. This documentation provides information on future plans, contractual issues, achievement of performance indicators, and total monthly payments made.