The European Court of Auditors (ECA) has successfully facilitated an audit on public procurement in the Western Balkans, together with the Swedish National Audit Office. The audit work was conducted by six supreme audit institutions (SAIs) – Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo*, Montenegro and Serbia. It was the largest project of its kind ever carried out in the region and has contributed to improvements in the way public procurement is audited. It has also enhanced the performance audit capacities of the six participating SAIs. In a summary issued today, the EU auditors present the key observations and main conclusions of the six SAIs’ national audit reports.
In recent years, cooperation among supreme audit institutions has expanded considerably. “We are an active player in the European audit community and find it highly encouraging that so many participating SAIs were willing to share their experience, learn from each other and mutually support their capacity development in performance auditing,” said ECA President Klaus-Heiner Lehne.
In this 18-month project, the EU auditors helped each of the SAIs to carry out similar types of audit on public procurement. While the audit methodologies and approaches were discussed and peer-reviewed between them, the autonomous audit bodies conducted the audits more or less simultaneously and within their own mandate, with separate audit teams from each body. The full audit reports have been presented to their relevant national stakeholders.
“This project has improved the connectivity between the participating SAIs and created a regional network that we hope will last. Moreover, the results demonstrate that the exchange of experience benefits all not only in theory, but also in practice,” added President Lehne.
The summary publication issued today by the ECA and the Swedish NAO points out significant flaws in the systems for public procurement in all six cases. The problems lie mainly in the planning and follow-up phases. The authorities do not properly assess their needs before specifying the procurement requirements. This leads to continued challenges throughout the process, resulting in delays, risk of fraud and general difficulties in accessing the services needed by the public. Changes in these areas would have a positive effect on public procurement and lead to improvements in many public sector functions.
It is hoped that this project will contribute to increased understanding of the problems in the area, promote cross-border cooperation on the way to EU integration, and support public institutions in their future transition.
This project was managed by the ECA and the Swedish NAO, which currently co-chairs the Joint Working Group on Audit Activities of the Contact Committee of EU Supreme Audit Institutions.
* This designation is without prejudice to status and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the International Court of Justice opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.
 This publication is not an audit report, but a summary of the key findings and observations from the six national audit reports. The editors did not conduct any fact-checking and are thus not responsible for the accuracy of the underlying audit evidence.