The paper offers an alternative assessment of the procurement performance within the Serbian Ministry of Interior for the period of 2013 – 2017 by observing key performance indicators, which reveal the true reach of legislative and procedural changes.
The Serbian Ministry of Interior (MoI), responsible for policing, is one of the largest public institutions in Serbia. It employs nearly 45,000 people, and its expenses swallow up a significant portion of the Serbian budget – nearly 6% (around 1.5% of the GDP). The MoI acts as a primary law enforcement actor, responsible for maintaining public safety, fighting crime and corruption. Poor procurement performance became especially noticeable during the recent years of enforcement of austerity measures and fewer funds available to the MoI. Due to the tight fiscal policy, the question of how to obtain a value for money in the MoI became more important than ever before.
Looking from a legislation perspective, the MoI has so far “ticked many boxes”, but there is yet no assessment whether the procurement performance has really improved.
In 2016, the MoI adopted an Internal Act that regulates the process of procurement procedure in detail, specifying responsibilities in the planning phase, procurement qualitative and quantitative control mechanisms, and monitoring the implementation of public procurement contracts. The MoI also enacted an internal plan for curbing corruption in public procurement, as stipulated by law.
The Internal Audit Unit within the MoI exists as an independent internal actor that performs audits within the Ministry with the goal to improve the management performance of the MoI organizational units. Furthermore, after the new Law on Police was enacted in 2016, the Internal Control Sector of the MoI expanded its competences to the whole of the ministry, not just the police department, thus increasing its preventive and repressive reach to the sector competent for managing financial and material resources. These changes largely satisfy the EU negotiation obligations in the field of improving the public procurement system.
However, without good procurement performance benchmarks, the question remains of how to really determine whether these changes have yielded any positive results.
The assessment concludes that the overall rating of the MoI procurement practice is far from satisfactory and demands significant, but achievable efforts in order to improve it. For this purpose, the paper includes a number of recommendations designed to be realistically applicable and which will have an impact on the improvement of the MoI procurement performance track record.
The assessment uses performance indicators developed by the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, published in the Toolkit for Civil Assessment of Public Expenditure Performance in the Security Sector, and the POINTPULSE network methodology for assessing police integrity concerning finance and procurement. Statistical data of the MoI procurement practice is used, as well as the data from the national public procurement reports issued by the Public Procurement Office.