The main aim of the article is to introduce readers to the public procurement system of Kyrgyzstan, the recent developments in the area and the process through which Transparent Public Procurement Rating (TPPR) and Open Governance Partnership (OGP) contributed to the improvement of the public procurement system in the country.
Public procurement system in Kyrgyzstan
Over the past five years, the public procurement system of Kyrgyzstan went through significant reforms both, at the legal and technical levels. The main legal act regulating public procurement in Kyrgyzstan is the Law on Public Procurement (hereinafter the Law), adopted on April 3, 2015. According to the Law, the public procurement system of the Kyrgyz Republic is based on the principles of publicity, openness, legality and impartiality. It regulates the procedure for conducting procurement in the Kyrgyz Republic, clearly defines the powers and functions of stakeholders, and provides for an appeal mechanism during procurement procedures.
The main body responsible for public procurement management in the country is the Public Procurement Department under the Ministry of Finance of the Kyrgyz Republic (the Department). The Law covers all state budget and local government entities, as well as joint-stock companies where the state or municipal share is more than 50% and other economic entities created from public funds.
The scope of coverage of the law includes all sectors of the economy where competition is possible. However, it does not regulate procurement procedures directly related to national security, defence, state secrets and natural disasters.
Based on the data of 2019, the annual volume of successfully conducted public procurement procedures equalled more than 63.0 billion soms. In all 77,477 tenders had a successful outcome. 33.8 billion soms were spent on purchasing goods, 18.1 billion soms on works and 11.3 billion soms on services. For comparison, in 2018, 87,159 tenders were successfully held for a total of 69.9 billion soms. The figures demonstrate the volume of financial resources spent through public procurement in Kyrgyzstan. The existence of a well-functioning, competitive and truly transparent procurement system is crucial to avoid misuse of financial resources in Kyrgyzstan.
Since 2015 all public procurement procedures in Kyrgyzstan are conducted on a single official point of access in an electronic format - http://zakupki.gov.kg.
Shortcomings identified by the TPPR evaluation
The TPPR evaluation of Kyrgyzstan, conducted shortly after the adoption of the Law on Public Procurement found a number of shortcomings in the system. Namely, IDFI stressed that despite the introduction of the electronic system, the website www.zakupki.gov.kg had some operational shortcomings. These shortcomings included insufficient server capacity, lack of feedback options, and modules such as consulting services, two-stage bidding, framework agreement, filing complaints, etc. The absence of these modules did not allow procuring entities to fully implement the provisions of the Law. TPPR evaluation also called for the need to integrate the electronic public procurement system with information systems run by other state entities and to actively introduce IT technologies in the system.
Moreover, the evaluation found that the legislation did not guarantee access to such procurement-related information as procurement contracts, contract amendments, contract performance information, payment receipts, inspection and quality control reports. It was obvious, that the public procurement system of Kyrgyzstan had significant shortcomings in the area of public procurement transparency at the post-tendering stage.
In all the public procurement reform in Kyrgyzstan was hindered by deficiencies of the legislative framework, as well as insufficient resources to fine-tune procurement procedure modules at the electronic portal.
Recent changes in the public procurement system
In order to address the shortcomings, the Kyrgyz government took several important commitments related to public procurement in its Open Government Partnership (OGP) Action Plan of 2018-2020. The OGP Action Plan of Kyrgyzstan, developed with the active participation of CSOs referred to the TPPR evaluation of the country, stating that the level of public procurement legislative transparency in the country equalled 65.9% out of 100% and noting that the lack of transparency in public procurement and the public procurement web portal (www.zakupki.gov.kg) deficiencies led to decreased competition among suppliers, increased public procurement expenditures and continued corruption in the public procurement. To tackle the challenges, the government took the obligation of refining public procurement legislation and improving the electronic system of public procurement. Namely according to the OGP Action Plan of the Kyrgyz Republic:
• Changes would be introduced to the legislation in the field of public procurement to expand and clarify the list of data subject to mandatory publication in the open format, taking into account the best international practices.
• The public procurement web portal would be improved to make it possible for disclosure of full text of contracts and information on contract terms performance. This would also facilitate audit and public monitoring of public procurement, including filing complaints to the Independent Complaints Body.
- Changes in the legislation
In December 2020 amendments were introduced to the Public Procurement Law of the Kyrgyz Republic. According to the changes now it is mandatory to publish new categories of information on the procurement portal of Kyrgyzstan. At the post-tendering stage procuring entities are now obliged to publish the information on the subject, price (including price per unit), date and other terms of the contract in conjunction with the information about the tender participant awarded the contract. Moreover procuring entities have the obligation to publish information on the contract execution and as well as its amendments (if any). This information includes the date of the amendment to the agreement, the basis for the amendment, date of signing the acceptance certificate, amount of penalties imposed, date and amount of payment etc.
According to the legislation, the texts of contracts are publicly available on the public procurement portal of Kyrgyzstan. Exception form this rule is the information containing confidential or personal data, in accordance with the legislation of the Kyrgyz Republic. The new amendments also foresee the personal responsibility of the head and relevant employees of a procuring entity in case if financial damage is incurred during or after conducting a tender.
- Changes to the public procurement portal
In line with the OGP commitments, the Kyrgyz government took a number of steps towards a more transparent public procurement system. As a result, the website of http://zakupki.gov.kg/popp/ now includes such tools as request forms, feedback module, reports module, OCDS, API and relevant dashboards and as well as el. catalogues.
• The request form enables visitors to look up the procurement procedures of their interest online and instantly receive information. The visitors can request and look up information through such search filters as region, start and end date of the procurement procedure, procuring entity, procurement method, a sum of procurement, etc.
• The feedback module allows registered users and visitors of the website to contact the department and receive responses to inquiries on various topics. Namely, username registration and activation, public procurement regulations, contacts, selections of winners, announcing competitive procurement, submitting bids and proposals, procurement reports, registration of contracts, etc.
• The reports module integrated on the procurement portal of Kyrgyzstan enables visitors to view reports on such topics as information on state procurement, contests, lots, procurement organizations, suppliers, winners and signed contacts and consolidated reports.
• The webpage of statistical analysis covers the statistical information on procurement procedures and includes weekly as well as annual modules. The information is automatically renewed and covers such data as top 10 procuring entities, number of active procurers, number of suppliers, the average number of lots per procurement, the average cost of procurement, the highest cost procurement, results of appeals, etc. The webpage of statistical analysis enables visitors to download data, through exporting API and meets OCDS standards.
• The module of the electronic catalogue was developed in Kyrgyzstan. The commitment was the only one not included in the OGP action plan of the Kyrgyz Republic, however, the government developed the module on its own initiative with the help of international assistance. The el. catalogue is a significant tool for supporting SMEs and increasing their participation in procurement. It includes information on available goods, works and services in the Kyrgyz Republic, and any interested party can refer to the Department with the request of adding relevant information to the catalogue. Procuring entities are thus enabled to conduct single-source procurement, through choosing from available goods, works and services in the el. catalogue.
Now once the overall framework of publishing public procurement information in Kyrgyzstan has been successfully elaborated it is crucial to make it fully operational in practice. Even though the OGP Action Plan included the obligation of providing information on the procurement portal in Kyrgyz, Russian and English languages, to-date the website does not meet the obligation. Information provided in English is limited and makes it inoperational for those with no languages skill of Kyrgyz or Russian. Moreover, although multiple information on the webpage can be downloaded in JSON format (in line with the Open Contracting Data Standards) the request form of the website does not allow for simply downloading search results in Microsoft Excel format, which would enable those with no in-depth technical skills to download data and analyse it using the Microsoft Office programs. The reports module of the procurement portal is not fully functional either. When selecting certain dates and trying to download data for a specific period the results given were blank tables without relevant procurement data.
The public procurement system of the Kyrgyz Republic has undergone significant positive changes in the last years. The role of international financial organizations, unbiased assessment of the system by TPPR and OGP related commitments in the process can not be underestimated. The most recent amendments increased the transparency level of publishing post-tender procurement data, strengthened the capacities of the public procurement portal, made it more user-friendly and took important steps towards meeting the Open Contracting Data Standards. However, the modules are still freshly developed and need more effort to make them fully operational. It is crucial to continue close monitoring of procurement procedures in Kyrgyzstan and strengthen cooperation between government, CSOs and international organizations. This will ensure that the progress achieved is maintaining and further steps are taken towards strengthening public procurement transparency in the country.
In the process of preparing the article, IDFI consulted with the national expert form Kyrgyzstan, Mr Bakytbek Satybekov.