[Dateline: New York | Author: Department of Management]
For the first time in UN history, the Secretariat will allow companies who unsuccessfully participated in a bidding exercise, to file a procurement challenge against the UN to ascertain how they were evaluated and why they were not selected. Such challenges will be received by the newly established Administrative Review Board (ARB).
Further, to counter fraudulent, corrupt and unethical practices in the course of UN procurement a new Senior Vendor Review Committee (SVRC) was established. It can take effective measures, including debarring, suspension, probation, etc., in relation to registered vendors and those under investigation, accused, convicted or involved in litigation concerning fraudulent, corrupt or unethical practices.
Two new mechanisms were set up to further strengthen UN procurement. The Award Review Board (ARB) and Senior Vendor Review Committee (SVRC) were established at the end of 2009 as independent review bodies in the context of the UN Procurement Reform proposed by the Secretary-General [ref. A/60/692] and brought to the attention of Member States. [Ref. General Assembly resolution 61/246]. The ARB and SVRC are set up on a 12-month pilot basis, and its Secretariat is temporarily hosted under the Headquarters Committee on Contracts, and the Procurement Division in the Department of Management.
• For the first time in UN history, the Secretariat will now allow companies who want to do business with the UN and submitted a bid (ITB) or proposal (RFP) but did not win a contract, to file a procurement challenge against the UN to ascertain how they have been evaluated and why they were not selected.
• To mitigate the risk of doing business with Vendors involved in unethical, fraudulent, and corrupt practices, the SVRC will review cases where such concerns may arise and provide independent advice on sanctions and remedies as appropriate.
The primary purpose of the administrative review is to further enhance fairness, transparency, and integrity in the UN procurement process, through better communication with the vendor community, explaining the UN procedure, listening to potential complaints, following up and taking action as necessary.
Independence and Professionalism
In order to strictly adhere to the requirement of independence expressed by Member States and auditors, the members of the administrative bodies are external to the UN and come from the private and public sector (non-UN staff). These experts, within their capacity, will review cases and render independent advice to the USG/DM for final administrative decision on the merits of the procurement challenge or else on issues related to fraudulent, corrupt and unethical behavior.
Administrative Review Board (ARB) in brief
The primary purpose of the Administrative Review Board is to offer unsuccessful bidders who participated in high-value tenders of the UN, a process where they can file a procurement challenge, more commonly known as “bid protest”.
Unsuccessful bidders are eligible to file a procurement challenge if the bid/ITB or proposal/RFP issued falls within the delegation of authority of the Directors or the Chiefs of Services of the Procurement Division in DM, and after having requested a formal debriefing.
The Registrar of the Administrative Review Board may assign a single expert for a simple case, or a panel of three experts for complex cases. If you want to know more about this procedure read the Terms of Reference of the Administrative Review Board Award Review Board (ARB) - Terms of Reference.
Senior Vendor Review Committee (SVRC) in brief
The primary purpose of the Senior Vendor Review Committee is to mitigate the risk exposure for the UN in doing business with vendors, strengthening internal control measures over procurement practices through the mechanism of review and enforcement. The Senior Vendor Review Committee is an independent review body through its unique composition; for the period of pilot programme it is temporarily chaired by the Director of the Ethics Office who may sit alone when considering simple cases, or with two independent experts when considering complex cases.
The scope of its review is not limited to registered UN vendors; it also extends to vendors seeking to register with, the UN (Vendors) and encompasses companies as well as individuals. The fraudulent, corrupt and unethical behavior can relate to investigation, accusation conviction or litigation in which the Vendor is alleged to have, or did engage in a fraudulent, corrupt or unethical practice. If you are interested in knowing more about the SVRC, read its terms of reference at Senior Vendor Review Committee (SVRC) - Terms of Reference.
Communication and Outreach
Vendors are now being put on notice that that the UN will not tolerate unethical behavior especially if resulting in violations to the UN Supplier Code of Conduct (articles 19-22).
Recently, the ARB/SVRC Secretariat has created a separate Community of Practice (COP) for the experts, as a platform for hosting internal discussions and to store documents, articles and other information. Efforts are underway to develop a website for the Administrative Review Board and the Senior Vendor Review Committee.
Finally, a high interest was expressed by the international community to know more about the UN administrative review boards (ARB and SVRC) in the framework of the pilot programme. As a result of a joint initiative with the Procurement Division and the HCC which is hosting the ARB/SVRC secretariat, a recent paper titled “Procurement reform at the United Nations: Launching a Pilot Programme to Promote Fairness, Transparency and Efficiency” was successfully submitted and accepted after peer-review by the Scientific Committee for presentation
The IPPC is a forum for sharing knowledge, innovations and existing practices of public procurement among practitioners, researchers and academia.
The paper will be presented on the panel “best practices” at the IV International Public Procurement Conference (IPPC) on August 26-28, 2010 in Seoul, Korea. In the course of the Conference we expect to obtain useful comments and recommendations for further improvements, and raise overall awareness of the new UN review bodies, SVRC and ARB. Following the IPP Conference, the paper will be published and be made publicly available, (for further information please see www.ippc2010.kr ).