According to the European Commission’s 2022 report, Kosovo is still in the early stages of preparation in the fight against corruption. Civil society engagement and media coverage of irregularities in public procurement procedures is limited, particularly at local level. Local media in Kosovo mostly remain within their comfort zone, utilizing traditional methods of reporting and resisting adapting to new technological trends and touching on the interests of contracting authorities or economic operators.
Even when civil society or the media do report on corruption affairs, due to limited exposure of the findings, public institutions often do not address the reported issues or take any remedial actions, especially when this reporting relates to corruption among public officials.
The phenomenon of corruption enables the powerful and the corrupt to maintain their power, acquire wealth from the state and avoid punishment. Ordinary citizens pay the price through livelihood loss, poor public services, limited opportunities and by losing trust in democracy, as they witness government institutions serve private interests. According to a Transparency International report, this happens at all levels of government in the Western Balkans, including in Kosovo – from local to national level – where chains of loyalty and mutual benefits lead officials to abuse their office and tighten the grip of a few networks on these countries.
In 2021, through public procurement, 160 different institutions in Kosovo signed 9,892 contracts worth over €429.6 million. The main source of funding for public tenders was from the state budget – about 80 per cent. The value of the signed contracts equaled about 17 per cent of the total budget of Kosovo.
Kosovo municipalities also lack civic activism and face general apathy, especially when it comes to oversight of works and services delivered by the municipalities. A limited number of citizens attend budget hearings held during the process of drafting municipal budget, which consequently sees projects being funded that do not necessarily represent the actual needs, priorities or concerns of citizens. Similar apathy is also noted in the implementation of public contracts. Few citizens possess information on details of the project, the obligations of the contractors and building standards, which in turn sees many projects lacking the desired quality, as was initially contracted. Unfortunately, this often goes unreported as media, which, when they do not have the necessary information, cannot report or demand corrections when something is wrong in the public contracts.
To respond to some of these issues, Democracy Plus, D+ and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN Kosovo, have joined efforts to design a response to the Terms of Reference. This proposal brings a triangular approach that connects direct monitoring on the ground, comprehensive thank-tank reporting based on research and media reporting to generate public pressure and response once remedial action is needed or good practices are identified in need of promotion.
D+ and BIRN Kosovo bring a combined past performance of excellence in the areas required by this ToR, a team experienced in project management, quality assurance, procurement and financial experts, with policy analysts, editors, journalists, legal advisors, camera operators, audio and video editors, designers and producers, who work to produce impactful written journalism and TV programmes.
Civil society in Kosovo often plays an important role in promoting integrity, exposing wrongdoing, providing recommendations for public institutions and fighting corruption. The vast experience of D+ and BIRN Kosovo in monitoring public procurement processes at the central and local level will ensure the success of this project.
Objective 1: Contribute to an increase in transparency and accountability in local government institutions by monitoring their procurement activities and publishing a report, op-ed and infographics on public spending abuses, institutional wrongdoings and corrupt affairs.
Activity 1. Direct monitoring of 27 tenders at the pre-tendering, tendering and contract management phases in the municipalities of Gjakovë/Djakovica, Gjilan/Gnjilane, Lipjan/Lipljan, Pejë/Peć, Pristina, Rahovec/Orahovac, Suharekë/Suva Reka, Vushtrri/Vučitrn, and the Ministry of Health
Activity 2. Publication of one comprehensive monitoring report generated from the direct monitoring and research
Activity 3. Roundtable for publication of the monitoring procurement report
Activity 4. Publication of one op-ed, and three infographics which visualize the findings
Citizens of Kosovo