"Civil society should have an important task in every well-developed public procurement system.
Procurement Network interviewed Branimir Blagojevic, member of the Republic Commission for Protection of Rights in Public Procurement Procedures, Republic of Serbia.
In 2015 Branimir Blagojevic was elected by the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia to be a Member of the Republic Commission for the Protection of Rights in Public Procurement Procedures (Serbia’s PP review body), which is his current position. He is also a member of the Negotiating Group 5 – Public Procurement, for accession of the Republic of Serbia to the European Union (in charge of Defense Procurement).
He has worked for many years in the National Bank of Serbia, as a public procurement expert, legal adviser, coordinator of a Group for Implementation of Public Procurement Procedures and a senior adviser in the National Bank’s Controlling Centre (Division for Strategic Planning and Procurement Assessment).
He holds a degree of the International Masters in Public Procurement Management (the University of Rome Tor Vergata), as an EBRD scholar.
How would you describe procurement’s role in building public trust?
In my opinion, the field of public procurement is one of the main tools for every government in creating public trust. If we just take into account that about 15% of the country’s GDP is being spent through public procurement, it is easy to understand why. Having in mind that general public is very sensitive about how public funds are spent, every government should build an efficient public procurement system and show to citizens (and voters, at the end) that it has the will and strength to create a strong system and to provide quality public services at reasonable cost.
This is, for sure, not the only reason. Country can affect numerous goals through public procurement, such as support to small and medium-sized enterprises, support to innovation and environment protection, combating corruption and many others.
Speaking about Serbia's public procurement system, how close is it today from becoming an integral part of EU public procurement?
Republic of Serbia is a candidate country for accession to the European Union. Speaking about public procurement, Serbia is just waiting to open negotiations for Chapter 5 – Public Procurement.
New Public Procurement Development Strategy of the Republic of Serbia has been adopted at the beginning of 2015 and according to it, our legislation should be fully aligned with the EU acquis until the end of 2017. Namely, in Q4 2017 Serbia is planning to adopt new public procurement legislation (including rules on public-private partnership and concessions) as well as to fully implement them in practice. At the moment, our public procurement system is broadly aligned with the acquis.
In parallel with this legislative process, Serbia is trying to build the capacities of contracting authorities and bidders, in order to advance their preparations for full implementation of regulations harmonised with the EU Directives and best practice.
What would you consider the biggest procurement achievement and the biggest procurement challenge in Serbia today?
In recent years, Serbia made some big steps in creation of better public procurement. Namely, in 2012 new and modern Law on Public Procurement was adopted. The Law introduced many instruments known in the EU directives, such as framework agreements, dynamic purchasing system, centralization, e-procurement, competitive dialogue. The Law is trying to move focus from formality and bureaucracy in public procurement to the “best value for money” approach.
Alongside, strong and independent institutions have been created. Let me give an example of the institution where I work. Today, the Republic Commission for the Protection of Rights in Public Procurement Procedures in an independent institution of Republic of Serbia providing protection of rights in public procurement procedures. It is a permanent body established by the Law, which regulates establishment and functioning of the Republic Commission. It regulates in detail all its competences, requirements for appointment and dismissal of its members. The Republic Commission almost completely fulfills criteria set by remedies directive and the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice to be used as to determine the “judicial” nature of the review body.
However, challenges are still out there and Serbia has to be dedicated and capable enough to overcome them. Future public procurement regulations should be fully aligned with the EU acquis, but also they have to be tailor made for Serbia’s reality and its tradition.
What is even more important, main institutions have to be strengthened further, in order to “grease the wheel” of future procurement development and help contracting authorities and bidders in implementation of public procurement procedures.
We would appreciate your thoughts about importance of civil society in monitoring public procurement in any country.
Civil society should have an important task in every well-developed public procurement system, but maybe even more so in developing countries. Civil society, in my opinion, should not only be one of the main factors in monitoring public procurement, but also in creation of a stronger system through professionalization. It should be a partner to the public sector and not act only as a controller and to be on a “counter side”. Both sides should have great understanding of the others position and work hard in order to push the system to the next level.
One of examples that shows an understanding of the Republic of Serbia is the institution of Civil Supervisor in public procurement procedures, which was introduced by the Law on Public Procurement in 2012.
What would be your advice to those who select procurement as future profession?
It is a fact that future lawyers, economists and engineers are not dreaming to become public procurement professionals, but more likely to be advocates, judges, bankers or researchers. This was also my situation. However, once you enter a procurement world with so many challenges, great opportunities and problems to be solved, you become hooked and have an incentive to move forward.
I would advise young professionals to open the door of this world and to use their creativity in building a better future for our society. My simple question for them is – would you be happy if, on the way to work, you would see kids entering a new school, a result of a project you was a part of?