1Why has this project already been running for such a long time? Why does it take so long for results to be delivered?
To understand the long timeframe for the preparation of the project, one has to understand its different stages of development:
From 2008 until 2010 the relevant ministries in Ukraine and Germany discussed in general the possibility to fund such a project. KfW Development Bank – which acts on behalf of the German government and is responsible for the preparation and implementation of such financial cooperation projects – formally applied in 2010 for funding for this project from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (“BMZ”). In 2011 the German government approved the provision of a first tranche of project funds (additional funds were approved in 2012 and 2013 – all together 14 Mio. Euro). This was the starting point for KfW to start preparing/assessing the project in cooperation with the Ukrainian Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources (MENR).
In principal, projects of this dimension are prepared in several steps:
• Selection and assignment of a consultant for feasibility study: A feasibility study is conducted usually through an international consulting team checking not only the content of such a project but also the possible implementation structure, possible risks, as well as the financial needs. The consulting team was selected through an international tender between November 2011 and April 2012. The study itself was conducted until April 2013.
• Project appraisal by KfW: Based on the results of the feasibility study, KfW is conducting its own appraisal mission, which was done end of June 2013.
• Formal approval by German Government: With the information from the feasibility study and the appraisal mission KfW has to write its own critical assessment report which is then the basis for BMZ to decide upon the implementation concept of the project. With this approval from BMZ (which was granted in June 2014), KfW gets the permission to start the contract negotiation with the Ukrainian government.
• Signing Agreements: The necessary contracts between KfW and the Ukrainian government were signed in March 2015 and the underlying governmental agreement in April 2015.
• Selection and assignment of an Implementing Consultant: Finally, in May 2015 an international tender for the implementation of the full project was announced. The tender was concluded in March 2016 and won by an international consortium consisting of AHT Group AG (AHT, Germany), Ukrainian Society for the Protection of Birds (USPB-, Partner of BirdLife International, Ukraine), Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS, Germany) and the WWF International Danube-Carpathian Programme.
The official project start was in May 2016. During the first project year, all the necessary procedures needed to be established, agreed and signed between the project stakeholders, and the project itself – to be duly registered with Ukrainian Ministry of Economic Development and Trade before the project could accomplish the first procurement in July 2017. So the first expenditures were incurred in July 2017. Hence none of the funds disappeared.
2How do you ensure that project funds are not misused?
Transparency regarding project implementation and expenditure of project funds is imperative. Therefore, the project has set up a number of measures to ensure this principle. All procurements are published on the project website, and it is considered that the information tool of Ukrainian ProZorro electronic procurement system will be used for circulation of information about intended tenders, even for smaller ones which don’t necessarily need to be published/conducted publicly.
For larger tenders, public tender-opening sessions are conducted and settled in a protocol, where the proposals are received in sealed envelopes beforehand. The Consultant runs and operates all tenders on behalf of the MENR (the latter then has to approve the results) and follows the strict rules provided by KfW Development Bank. An independent anti-corruption NGO (Transparency International) acts as a watchdog during the whole tender preparation and evaluation process. They check the companies for links to government officials, the Consultant or Park personnel. They also monitor the application of the transparency and eligibility rules during the opening and evaluation procedures.
The money, in general, is hold at KfW and only released via a Disposition Fund in tranches based on detailed spending plans which are prepared by the consultant and agreed between MENR and KfW. The money is then transferred to special accounts opened for the purposes of the Disposition Fund in the Ukraine and abroad (to diminish currency exchange and transfer risks), from which it is spent according to the agreed proposals. The use of the money is checked through the international consulting team as well as an annual audit by an independent auditing company.
Additional, KfW is checking project progress regularly on the ground. These mechanisms are used worldwide successfully in similar projects to avoid the misuse of German taxpayer’s money. In addition, a confidential complaint hotline was established and published on the project website. Justified complaints can be submitted anonymously and will be evaluated by independent lawyers of the above-mentioned anti-corruption NGO (Transparency International). In the framework of all presentations given for the MENR or the participating Parks, details on this hotline will be presented to encourage postings of justified complaints.
3How is the equipment being maintained? Where do the funds come from?
It is a general principle of the project to provide the Parks with cost-efficient and long-lasting solutions. For example, the technical specifications in our tenders permit the purchase of cars which might be more expensive but last longer and don’t cause high fuel or repair costs to the Parks in the long run. Running and maintenance costs for the Parks shall be kept to a minimum. As the financial situation of the Parks is partly critical, we also include basic spare parts and some maintenance costs in the services of such tenders. The same principles apply for houses or ranger posts that will be renovated within the scope of the project. We provide high-quality and modern solutions (also insulation of houses, energy-efficient heating solutions etc.) that keep the running and maintenance costs for the Parks low in the long term. At the same time, we will assist the Parks to gain more income on their own (e.g. through tourism infrastructure and services) but we will also lobby for higher budget contributions to the park administrations from the Central budget.
The Project already discussed the set-up of a Conservation Trust Fund that would be stocked up using national and international funding. The revenues would be spent as co-funding for the operational costs of protected areas. Such funds are established in any regions of high conservation value in the world, e.g. in the Caucasus. In the second half of the project implementation period, these plans shall be pursued further.
4What is the decision-making procedure of this project? Who decides on the priorities?
The German donor demands a complex set of procedures to be applied before any project funds can be spent. Details on these procedures are shown in the infographics on the main page of the project website (www.snpa.in.ua). In summary, they comprise the following: The Consultant prepares a comprehensive set of preparatory documents for each tender/smaller procurement, including justifications etc. Most of the tenders must be conducted for all eight territories at the same time, this implies the preparation of these documents can take months. Then most of the documents must be translated into Ukrainian and submitted to the MENR for approval. After an internal technical and financial check (which can also take weeks or months) the documents are forwarded to KfW for their internal technical and financial check (which can again take weeks or months). Only if KfW provides a “non-objection” approval, the Consultant can conduct an (in many cases) international tender which again will take several months until a vendor is selected, a contract is signed and goods are delivered.
The decision-making process is complex as well. The Consultant prepares all activities and procurements, discusses them with the relevant Parks and with representatives of the MENR and KfW. If required, advice is provided by the so-called “short-term” experts who are an integral part of the consultant team, or obtained from external institutions. Finally, a high-quality tender document is prepared to be circulated and approved as described in the section above.
5How are the priorities set in this project and how do you ensure that your proposed investments will really support nature conservation?
The successful operation and conservation work of protected areas or governmental conservation agencies require various elements, such as good and reliable equipment, well-equipped offices, qualified staff as well as good communication to disseminate and present experiences and results (websites, publications, conferences/meetings). All these elements are essential for successful conservation work and therefore eligible for project funding.
A planning matrix, the so-called “logical framework”, is used to define structure of the Project. This approach is widely used in conservation project planning and management. The logical framework aims at the improvement of conservation work through the project activities and investments. It is regularly evaluated and (if necessary) updated by the Project Implementation Team.