Transparency International Hungary will monitor the preparatory phase and the execution of the contract to build the final section of the M6 motorway. The section between Bóly and Ivándárda, at the Croatian border, is the first motorway project to be monitored by a non-governmental organization.
In 1994, Transparency International developed a tool called Integrity Pacts to help governments, businesses and civil society fight corruption. An Integrity Pact is a legal tool, a trilateral agreement between the contracting authority, the bidders, and an independent civil monitor. It involves that all parties to a public contract commit to transparency.
The European Commission launched a pilot project in January 2015 to explore the opportunities in using Integrity Pacts with regard to investments financed by the European Structural and Cohesion Funds. Under the framework of the ‘Integrity Pacts – Civil Control Mechanism for Safeguarding EU Funds’ pilot project, the European Commission launched two calls on May 22, 2015: one for Member State authorities to apply with the indication of EU-financed projects, and one for non-governmental organizations to apply as independent monitors for the project.
The European Commission selected the project to build the M6 motorway section between Bóly and Ivándárda (to the Croatian border) to be monitored under the pilot project, while the Transparency International Hungary Foundation was chosen for the role of independent monitor. The pilot project will span 4 years, from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2019.
Under the Integrity Pact, a Transparency Advisory Body will be set up, comprised of one representative each from the Contracting Authority (NIF Zrt.), the Managing Authority and the Monitor (Transparency International Hungary Foundation), with secretarial duties to be carried out by the Monitor. The monitor follows every phase of the public procurement process (including its preparation and the execution of the contract), and monitors the legality and transparency of the process and its preparation. A designated representative of the monitor participates in the preparation of the public procurement processes, as well as in the evaluation committee during the contract’s implementation, and has access to all documents of the public procurement process. In addition, the designated person can take part in the investment’s so-called “C” level on-site technical inspection carried out by the Managing Authority, where among others, it examines whether the construction works are in line with what is contained in the project contract. The Monitor publishes reports on the public procurement proceedings related to the Investment, in which it declares whether the given phase of the public procurement process meets the highest-level requirements of fairness and transparency. The Monitor publishes regular public reports about its experiences.
Eszter Vitályos, State Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office in charge of EU developments: “For the Hungarian Government, transparency and clean contracting is of priority importance with regard to every forint in public funds spent. It was to this end that we passed the new public procurement act, which is one of the most modern and strictest of its kind in the European Union. The evaluation of experiences so far is underway, the result of which may contribute to the modification of the act. We fully support every project – like this integrity pact, for example – that helps transparency, legality and the learning of practical experiences.”
Flórián Szalóki, deputy State Secretary of the Ministry of National Development, responsible for Transport Operational Programmes, representing the Managing Authority, said: “The development ministry welcomed the European Commission’s initiative for the application of Integrity Pacts with openness and interest. The cooperation could be a useful tool of the institutional system of EU support in further strengthening transparent public procurement practices. The mutual exchange of experiences will not only be beneficial for the participating parties, but the hoped increase in public trust will also serve a common interest.”
Pascal Boijmans, head of unit of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy, noted: “Our funds are a vital source of public investment in EU Member States; that is why we have zero tolerance for misspending. We are now supporting 17 pilot Integrity Pacts in 11 Member States, of which 2 are in Hungary. Our partnership with Transparency International in this field is a great opportunity to create more transparency in public spending, spend public money in a more efficient and effective way, create a basis of trust and fight fraud in a proactive and preventive way. With these pilot projects we are further stepping up our efforts to safeguard EU funds and we are committed to making this initiative a success.”
Róbert Nagy, the CEO of NIF, presented the current state of the investment: “The preparation of the ca. 19 km section of the M6 motorway between Bóly and Ivándárda, at the Croatian border, is currently underway at NIF Zrt. The call for offers that will launch the public procurement process on the planning phase is expected to be published at the end of this year. The winning design planner will have to prepare the construction and permitting plans by the end of 2017. The public procurement process on the construction itself will be able to be launched after this, and following a successful closing of this process, construction on the section could start in the second quarter of 2018.”
Zoë Reiter, senior project manager at Transparency International’s Secretariat in Berlin, emphasized: “This pact, which is a legally-binding agreement, is a pivotal opportunity for demonstrating how together civil society, the public sector and the private sector can take effective collective action to ensure clean contracting. With clean contracting, your tax euros are spent more effectively towards the public good, and slowly but surely we shrink the space in which corrupt actors operate.”
“We hope that as a result of the independent monitoring that forces transparency criteria to be followed, public trust toward public procurements may improve,” said József Péter Martin, executive director of Transparency International Hungary at the press conference, where the parties participating in the project announced the signing of the Integrity Pact on the monitoring of the M6 motorway project.