By Aya Jaffal, IFI Communications Intern
On Tuesday, November 9, 2021, the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI) at the American University of Beirut (AUB), in partnership with EuroMESCO, IEMed, and the EU mission in Lebanon, hosted a webinar titled "Public Procurement Law: What are the Challenges for Implementation?".
Taking part in the webinar were the Ambassador of the European Union to Lebanon Ralph Tarraf; the President of the Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan and Vice-Chair of the UN-Committee of Experts on Public Administration Lamia Moubayed Bissat; Senior Policy Advisor – Team Leader PFM at OECD-SIGMA Piotr-Nils Gorecki; and the International business lawyer, tax adviser, and President of the Lebanese Association for Taxpayers' Rights (ALDIC) Karim Daher. The event was moderated by the Director of the Issam Fares Institute, Dr. Joseph Bahout.
"The American University of Beirut and the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affair value the collaboration with EuroMESCO in organizing this webinar and we look forward for more collaborations in the future. We are also grateful for the participation of the EU mission in Lebanon which was part of this law,” Bahout said welcoming Ambassador Tarraf.
Bahout then shed light on the role of the law in fighting corruption, the challenges it faces in the political context, and the steps needed to ensure proper implementation.
Tarraf then explained that while the Public Procurement Law seems niche at a moment in which the government, just after its inception, seems blocked again, there is still hope the Lebanese and those in power will contribute to shaping the future of their own country.
He added that the public procurement law is not only essential in fighting corruption and improving governance, but can also ensure accessibility and availability of public services and goods for across Lebanon. In addition, he urged Lebanese leaders to act. In his opinion, the appropriate application of the Public Procurement Law can aid in the rebuilding of trust in Lebanon's governmental bodies. He added that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and emphasized the EU's role in the process of adoption of the law.
In her turn, Moubayed hailed the role played by social media and the civil society by being highly active in the dialogue and helped form the Public Procurement Law. 244/2021. Furthermore, Moubayed addressed the poor structure in the country by stating that in Lebanon, procurement accounts on average to 20% of the central government's expenditures and 6.5% of the GDP at the central level (excluding public institutions and municipalities) and that Lebanon has a low ranking for government procurement of adv. tech products (114/137). In contrast, the country's capacity for innovation is high with the potential for R&D and the availability of human capital.
Main Pillars of the Public Procurement Law
Moubayed explained that The Ministry of Finance is implementing the Methodology for Assessing Procurement Systems (MAPS II) with the support of the World Bank and the Agence Française de Développement. Also, building institutional capacities and human capital is essential to prepare and sustain procurement reform implementation.
There are three main pillars that Moubayed discussed to reach the goal: Collecting and analyzing evidence, building and validating the law’s vision, and finally implementing it.
Daher emphasized that the goal of Public Procurement Law is to promote accountability and transparency by defining the principle of integrity and identifying the situations of conflicts of interest, fraud, collusion and types of corruption, and the sanctions that will apply to public and private sector employees. He mentioned that it has become clear that despite the various successes in drafting anti-corruption laws, the whole reforming process is unlikely to be correctly implemented due to the political situation in the country.
Gorecki then gave a detailed presentation about the main lessons learned over the past 20 years, where SIGMA has been working with countries on procurement. He stressed on the importance of enhancing integrity and accountability in implementing the Public Procurement Law, given that irregular practices remain a problem in all countries.
The webinar ended with a Q&A session, where all speakers answered and shared their thoughts with the participants stressing on the importance of unity between the private and public sectors. Moreover, speakers agreed that implementing public procurement law no. 244/2021 is a crucial pillar of structural reforms to enhance fiscal governance and attract public investments in infrastructure.