25th of June 2019
Launching the first Integrity Pacts’ independent monitoring report of the project
E-cultura. The digital library of Romania
Transparency International Romania and the Institute for Public Policy published today 25th of June 2019 the first independent monitoring report based on the Integrity Pact signed with the Ministry of Culture and National Identity (MCNI).
The report presents the monitoring activity thought the Integrity Pact and its results for the project E-cultura. The digital library of Romania  and covers the full period from the start of the activity of monitoring (even before signing Memorandum of Cooperation on Integrity Pact), respectively from the summer of 2017, until March 31, 2019. The report takes into account all communications, documents and other information exchanged between MCIN, TI-Romania and IPP regarding the project financed by POC for digitization the mobile cultural heritage, in order to increase the accessibility at cultural resources for the general public, by improving the public services offered by the Ministry of Culture and National Identity by capitalizing on the potential of IT&C.
The main conclusions of the independent monitor regarding the period covered by this report are presented below. The emphasis on the elements regarding the preparation of the project is determined by the importance of this stage for the next development of the project and the detrimental influence that the accumulated delays may have in the next period.
The monitored project is implemented by the Ministry of culture and National Identity and funded from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Competitiveness Operational Programme (COP) 2014-2020, Priority Axis: “Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for a competitive digital economy”, Action: “Improving ICT infrastructure and digital content in the field of systemic e-education, e-inclusion, e-health and e-culture”.
The project will contribute in the improvement of the public access to national cultural resources, by facilitating the online access. In addition, the project assures the access for the people with special needs (such as people that can not go to the museum or library and also blind people) to national cultural resources. On the other hand, the project is a real support for the professionals, that will be able to integrate more easily the Romanian cultural resources in the European Digital Library (europeana.eu), they will be able to cooperate better, knowing each other materials and they will be able to use and reuse cultural materials from all over the country in research and teaching activities.
Beside the increase of the general public’ access to culture and the facility of collaboration nationally, Europeanly and internationally in the cultural sector, the development of the platform culturalia.ro could also increase the administrative capacity in the cultural sector, relieving cultural institutions (especially small ones) of acquiring and maintaining other systems of archiving and cataloging information about the cultural material held.
Also, the platform will facilitate the public institutions involved to publish data on their catalogs in open format and could be integrated in the national specific platform for this aspect: data.gov.ro.
The chosen option - namely the purchase of software development equipment and services for Culturalia - the Digital Library of Romania - and then the actual digitization to be made by the cultural institutions (not by contracted third parties) - is the most suitable path for ensuring public and professional access to national cultural resources.
An additional advantage of the equipment acquisition, compared to the outsourcing of digitization services, is the possibility of operating this equipment after the implementation of this project, considering that:
1) the number of materials for which the project covers digitization is limited, compared to the total digitization needs;
2) the term of physical and moral exhaustion of the equipment is sufficiently long, in the conditions proposed by the project (last generation equipment) to ensure their use for a reasonable period after the end of the project.
The start of the project, July 2018, was delayed compared to the initial plans, which placed its start in 2016 or 2017.
Independent monitors' findings in this respect is that in starting major projects with European funding can be accumulated delays due to the large number of agencies involved and complex administrative procedures.
For example, MCSI is involved in the project with two structures: OIPSI, which plays a key role in planning (issuing the Applicant's Guide) and monitoring, and CTE, which endorses the technical documentation of the project, including public procurement documentation. Better communication between these structures within the same public authority could help to resolve some issues more quickly.
Compliance of the procurement process
The monitoring did not identify any non-conformities in the documents prepared for the procurement procedure.
There were addressed recommendations such as:
All the recommendations of the independent monitor have been accepted and implemented by the contracting authority.
Transparency of procedures and access to documents granted to the independent monitor
The independent monitor, during the period covered by this report, worked in a transparent environment and got the necessary access to the documents provided by MCIN, with which it established a beneficial collaboration and partnership relationship for the Integrity Pact.
Risks and vulnerabilities to corruption remain residual that cannot only be prevented and will have to be treated with the utmost care and speed if they appear in the procurement process and the implementation of contracts.
Residual risks related to competition in public procurement still remain.
As part of the process of preparing the assignment documentation for IT products regarded by the procurement, the independent monitor - consisting of TI-Romania and IPP - submitted several recommendations to improve the quality and clarity of the public procurement documentation, including:
elimination of discriminatory and restrictive technical specifications for the purchase of equipment;
the inclusion of a more detailed functional description of the culturalia.ro platform in order to avoid the occurrence of subsequent irregularities;
reformulation of some conditions for warranty of equipment and services to ensure the sustainability of the project;
removing or clarifying some conditions relating to the previous experience of tenderers, in order to eliminate any restrictive requirements, but while maintaining requirements that ensure the competence of tenderers;
clarification of some formulations regarding the bid evaluation factors;
checking and ensuring the coherence between the documents related to the assignment documentation: Contracting strategy, Specifications, Contract etc.
These recommendations were fully accepted and implemented by MCIN.
More information about the Integrity Pact, the monitored project, the results, as well as about the integrity risks can be found in the full document: Monitoring report on needs assessment, elaboration of assignment documents and assignment of the first public procurement contract within the E-cultura project: Digital Library of Romania.
The mentioned report was elaborated within the project Integrity Pacts - Control mechanisms for the good management of EU funds, which aims to ensure a good management of European funds by developing and implementing the "pilot" project of Integrity Pacts in projects financed from the Structural and Cohesion Funds.
The Integrity Pacts are commitments made by contracting authorities and economic operators in a public procurement process, through which they undertake to practice and promote integrity standards. At the same time, the pact allows an independent civil society monitor to verify compliance with these commitments. The Memorandum of Cooperation on the Integrity Pact was signed by the Ministry of Culture and National Identity and the consortium of non-governmental organizations formed by Transparency International Romania and the Institute for Public Policy in December 2017. Based on this document, the consortium monitors the progress of the planning and implementation of activities of the E-cultura project and its public procurement. At the same time, the consortium formulates opinions on the compliance of the public procurement procedure with the applicable legislation, ethical norms and integrity standards and makes recommendations and proposals for the eliminating the possible irregularities.
For more information, please contact:
Irina Lonean, Project manager from Transparency International Romania, phone: 0744.367.079, e-mail: email@example.com
Adrian Moraru, Public Procurement Senior Expert from the Institute for Public Policy, phone: 0724 237 229, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
 The monitored project is implemented by the Ministry of Culture and National Identity (MCIN) with funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Competitiveness Operational Program (COP) 2014-2020, Priority Axis: "Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for a competitive digital economy”; Operation: "Improving digital content and systemic ICT infrastructure in the field of education, e-inclusion, e-health and e-culture"
 The pilot project is being implemented at the initiative of DG REGIO in 11 European countries (Bulgaria, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Romania, Hungary) for testing Integrity Pacts and monitoring public procurement resulted from 17 projects co-financed by the Structural and Investment Funds. The project was initially planned for a period of 4 years: 2016-2019.