In Ukraine, the World Bank has been involved in helping to improve public procurement for over a decade. In 2013, for example, the Bank conducted capacity-building exercises with civil society groups and the media on the monitoring of municipal services and procurement covering all regions in the country.
More recently, in 2014, the Bank provided capacity building and initial funding for two non-government organization (NGO) coalitions to monitor public procurement at municipal level in the cities of Ivano-Frankivsk and Vinnytsia. Both cities currently participate in World Bank-financed projects.
Vinnytsia, which is located 260 km southwest of the capital Kyiv, participates in the District Heating Energy Efficiency Project and the Serving People, Improving Health Project. Ivano-Frankivsk, the second largest city in western Ukraine, participates in the Urban Infrastructure Project.
Specially-created coalitions were free to choose areas to monitor, including areas not linked to World Bank projects. A coalition of four leading NGOs in Vinnytsia chose to monitor public procurement in healthcare, while a coalition of six organizations in Ivano-Frankivsk chose to monitor public procurement of food products for schools and kindergartens.
The coalitions focused on encouraging better interaction between city authorities and the public. Service providers were able to reach out to consumers who in turn could demand greater responsiveness and better services from those providers.
Bohdan Bilyk, the Deputy Mayor of Ivano-Frankivsk, recognizes the importance of building a strong relationship with residents. “We have managed to create a viable communication platform, which acts as a co-operation instrument for the city, schools, students and their parents – everyone wins in this co-operation, and this impact is the strongest that we’ve managed to achieve,” says Bilyk.
“Our activities – public hearings, focus groups, training sessions and a public opinion survey – have shown that the public is interested in engaging with the city’s authorities. Our two-way interaction has been very important to raise mutual responsibility for the well-being of our region’s school-children,” he adds.
Results from both projects were recently presented at a workshop hosted by the World Bank in Kyiv, as part of the Bank-supported capacity development co-operation with CSOs in the three countries. The workshop focused on the importance of public participation, which is considered to be a critical link in the chain between fiscal transparency and accountability.
Participants at the workshop shared their experiences in overseeing a number of public services ranging from health-care and municipal services to quality of school education and food products purchases for schools.
The participants all agreed that having constant interaction with local communities is not purely about reacting to their complaints when something goes wrong in public service delivery, but it is also about making the community play its part in decision-making and finding solutions to everyday problems - and providing them with a voice in shaping the development of their cities.
“Based on our research, the more times a citizen spends browsing the Internet, the stronger his or her distrust of the state grows. To tackle this, the state has two options – either to shut down the Internet or to become more open. We work to achieve more openness,” says Nicu Cretu of Moldova’s Open Government Institute.
Reflecting on the progress made in the three countries in the area of citizen engagement, the workshop participants concluded that further work is needed in the two other essential pillars of good governance – public participation and accountability.