REQUEST FOR APPLICATIONS (RFA)

FOR DEVELOPING AN ALTERNATIVE LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR IMPROVING CONSTRUCTION PERMITS IN SERBIA

Issuance Date: MARCH 15, 2013
Deadline for Receipt of Questions: MARCH 26, 2013 by 17:00 CET
Closing Date/Time for Submission of Applications: MARCH 29, 2013 by 15:00 CET

SUBJECT:      Request for Applications (RFA) Number: RFA-2013-01/R

The USAID Business Enabling Project in Serbia (USAID BEP), a United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded contract implemented by Cardno Emerging Markets USA, Ltd., is seeking applications from qualified, legally registered US, Serbian, or a third country non-profit, for-profit, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for a grant to prepare an unambiguous concept of an improved construction permits system. The grantee shall prepare a description of a reformed institutional setup, legal responsibilities, and process flows, and legal framework. Organizations are allowed to form consortia to provide the necessary expertise. The proposal should include a suggested list of sectoral laws and bylaws whose drafts (or draft amendments) will be developed in the scope of this project.

The Successful Applicant will be responsible for ensuring achievement of specified grant objectives.

This RFA consists of the following sections:

  • Section 1 – Funding Opportunity Description
  • Section 2 – Award Information
  • Section 3 – Eligibility Information
  • Section 4 – Application and Submission Information
  • Section 5 – Application Review Information
  • Section 6 – Award and Administration Information
  • Section 7 – Annexes

Pursuant to 22 CFR 226.81, it is USAID policy not to award profit under assistance instruments. However, all reasonable, allocable and allowable expenses, both direct and indirect, which are related to the grant activity and are in accordance with applicable cost standards (22 CFR 226, OMB Circular A-122 for non-profit organizations, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 31 for for-profit organizations, and OMB Circular A-21 for educational institutions), may be paid under the Award.

Subject to the availability of funds, USAID BEP intends to provide up to USD 50,000 (fifty thousand US dollars payable in Serbian dinars) in total funding to be allocated over a 12 month period.

USAID BEP reserves the right to fund any or none of the applications submitted. Issuance of this RFA does not constitute an award commitment on the part of USAID BEP, nor does it commit USAID BEP to pay for costs incurred in the preparation and submission of an application. Further, USAID BEP reserves the right to reject any or all applications received if such action is considered to be in the best interest of the US Government. Applications are submitted at the risk of the Applicant; should circumstances prevent making an award, all preparation and submission costs are at the Applicant’s expense.

Organizations are allowed to form consortia to prepare responsive applications to this RFA.  A consortium should be represented by a prime applicant that will submit the application on behalf of the consortium.

Applicants should submit any questions concerning this RFA in writing, electronically, via email to grants@bep.rs. The deadline for receipt of requests for clarifications/explanations is March 26, 2013, by 17:00 hours Local Belgrade Time. No questions will be accepted after this date.

Applicants should submit applications in writing to: Jasmina Debeljak Maljkovic, electronically, via email at grants@bep.rs. The Closing Date for submission of applications is March 29, 2013, and the Closing Time for Submission of Applications is 15:00 hours Local Belgrade Time. Late applications will not be considered.

Section 1 – Funding Opportunity Description

Background

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded a contract to Cardno Emerging Markets USA, Ltd. (formerly Emerging Markets Group, Ltd.) for the USAID Business Enabling Project in Serbia (USAID BEP). The purpose of the Business Enabling Project is to help the Government of Serbia (GoS) improve the competitiveness of the Serbian economy and its private sector businesses. The overall objective is to assist GoS policy makers, business representatives, experts, and others to improve the business enabling environment and macroeconomic framework. USAID BEP provides technical assistance and training to improve the business enabling environment, support macroeconomic stability, further develop financial markets, and improve and increase business and financial management capacities within government and business. USAID BEP is made up of three components:

  1. Component 1 – Business Regulation and Economic Governance: Assist Serbia to improve its business regulation and economic governance, particularly in those areas where it performs poorly in international competitiveness and business environment rankings, so that it can better stimulate private sector growth and development and attract more foreign and domestic investment resources.
  2. Component 2 – Macroeconomic Policy and Public Financial Management: Assist the GoS and the National Bank of Serbia to improve macroeconomic policy, public financial management, and financial stability. Support efforts to improve GoS capacity to develop and implement fiscal policy.
  3. Component 3 – Financial Market Development: Support means to increase access to finance, including development of non bank financial institutions. Also, support the development of Serbia’s capital markets through improvements in market governance, accounting and disclosure standards. Support Serbia in its efforts to reform accounting and audit standards and practices and assist it in implementing those reforms.

To accomplish reforms in each of these areas USAID BEP helps the Government of Serbia work closely with the private sector and outside experts to make reforms that improve business competitiveness. The USAID BEP’s activities are described in more detail on the USAID BEP’s website: www.bep.rs

Construction permitting reform is one of the key business environment reforms necessary for Serbia to increase economic growth, create jobs and raise living standards. The slow and expensive process to obtain construction permits is a major problem in business in Serbia. The problems in institutions, processes, legislation, and procedures are numerous and complex.  They manifest themselves in Serbia’s World Bank Doing Business ranking of 179th out of 185 economies in dealing with construction permits. Reforming the construction permit process is strategically important for improving the business environment in Serbia. Streamlining the construction permit process would significantly impact GDP, as the construction sector is about 4% of GDP (2010 data, down from 5% in 2009).

The purpose of this RFA is to solicit applications for a) preparation of an unambiguous concept of improved construction permits system, including description of reformed institutional setup, legal responsibilities and process flows, and b) development of a legal framework to implement that concept into Serbia's legal system.

Grant activity Description

Problem Statement

Reforms of procedures in the construction field introduced by legislation adopted in 2009 and then in 2011 again proved to be short-lived and not fully implemented. The current system continues to be characterized by a low quality and high costs of public services. Considering that Doing Business 2013 reports that an investor in Serbia has to go through 18 procedures and spend in average 269 days to obtain a construction permit, it is not surprising that this procedure is often used in Serbia as an example of public administration inefficiency.

To address deficiencies of the existing system, USAID BEP has performed in-depth diagnostics of the system and has proposed very concrete measures to improve relevant processes. The result of this engagement is the Assessment of Constraints to Construction Permits in Serbia (May 2012), which gave by far the most comprehensive diagnosis of problems with construction permits in Serbia and offered a number of concrete recommendations.

USAID BEP also initiated an intensive media campaign on the need to reform construction permits.  This campaign reached millions of citizens of Serbia, in addition to policy makers, business representatives, experts and other stakeholders. Finally, responding to the positive feedback on the findings and recommendations from the Assessment, USAID BEP produced in January 2013 A Roadmap for the Government of Serbia to Streamline Construction Permits, comprising a set of recommendations for improvements of the constructions permits with a roadmap for their implementation.

Based on extensive research and interviews with investors, public officials, researchers and consultants, USAID BEP believes that Serbia’s top political authorities must commit to undertake the following steps in order to fully reform the area of construction permits: 1) dismantle permitting monopolies within different public enterprises and other entities, 2) pass and implement a set of laws (covering planning and construction and several other laws) that will remove all existing contradictions in the legal framework and provide for reformed permitting procedure, and 3) mandate the use of an IT platform that will systematically track performance of the public sector in construction permits, allowing for timely interventions to remove possible bottlenecks and expedite processes.

As a result of USAID BEP's involvement in the construction permits area, stakeholders have asked BEP to help develop reformed framework for construction permits. USAID BEP will respond to this request by facilitating stakeholders’ dialogue on recommendations for improvement of construction permits and providing technical assistance to improve the legal framework for construction permits. This RFA will provide expertise necessary to accomplish these activities.  USAID BEP also intends to support implementation of specific segments of the reform, such as introduction of an e-Government system in construction permits.

We expect the new legal framework for the construction permits to be adopted by the end of 2013.  Mere adoption of the set of reformed laws will remove many of the impediments to more efficient construction permits. Other improvements will materialize after new institutions and mechanisms are implemented (one-stop-shops on local government level and the IT platform for construction permits, e.g.).  Public authorities, with help from USAID BEP and other donor programs, will need to build capacities of relevant institutions, explaining changes in the procedures to investors and general public and fine-tuning procedures during months and years following adoption of the reformed laws and bylaws. As a result of this process, we expect the duration of procedures to be reduced to 35 days, to have one institution in charge, two administrative decisions that precede the issuance of a construction permit, and substantial reduction in the number of contacts between investors and various institutions.

Grant Activities

USAID BEP intends to award a grant to a qualified organization to prepare an unambiguous concept of improved construction permits system, including a description of a reformed institutional setup, legal responsibilities and process flows, and a legal framework for implementation of that concept. Concrete activities that the Grantee is expected to perform include:

  • Design the Draft Concept of the Construction Permits Reform through consultations with relevant experts that will be facilitated by the USAID BEP, vet the Draft Concept with the stakeholders, revise it accordingly and present the agreed Concept to the public

The Grantee will prepare the Concept of the Construction Permits Reform (the Concept) of the construction permits (CP) reform using USAID BEP Assessment and Roadmap as a starting point. However, the Grantee is encouraged to propose content of the Concept that will deviate from directions laid down in these documents if deem appropriate after discussing directions of reforms with stakeholders. An integral part of the Concept will be the list of laws and bylaws that need to be developed in the scope of this project, and the list of regulatory changes that need to be implemented outside of the scope of this project. After consultations with the USAID BEP and other stakeholders, the Concept will define the manner of changing the Law on Planning and Construction (LPC): by amending the current Law on Planning and Construction or drafting a new law (alternatively, by preparing drafts of two or three separate laws covering matter comprising the current LPC). All these options will hereinafter be referred to as the New LPC.

USAID BEP will organize consultations with stakeholders on Draft Concept and public discussion on the agreed Concept, while the Grantee will be obliged to actively participate in the process of consultations, in vetting the Draft Concept with stakeholders and in public presentation of agreed Concept.

  • Draft changes to the Law on Planning and Construction (LPC)

After finalizing the Concept, the Grantee will draft necessary changes to the LPC. The Grantee will make sure that the New LPC reflects all elements of the Concept that require changes to the LPC.

If the Concept envisages phased implementation of reforms, including phasing in legislative changes, the Grantee will make sure that the draft of the New LPC also includes provisions whose delayed entering into force is envisaged.

An integral part of this segment is development of the outline of justification of the New LPC, to be used by the line ministry when putting forward the draft for opinions of relevant ministries.

  • Draft Changes to the Sectoral Laws regulating critical elements of the CP processes

The grantee will draft amendments to the sectoral laws as designated in the Concept for development within the scope of this project (such as Law on Public Roads, Energy Law, Law on Waters etc.) accommodating for all elements of the Concept whose implementation requires changes to the sectoral laws.
An integral part of this segment is development of the outlines of justifications, to be used by the line ministry when putting forward the draft laws for opinions of relevant ministries.

  • Draft new and bylaws changes to the existing bylaws of critical importance for the implementation of the reformed legislative framework

The grantee will draft new bylaws and changes to the existing bylaws as designated in the Concept for development within the scope of this project. The purpose of these drafts is to accommodate for all elements of the Concept whose implementation requires changes to the bylaws.

An integral part of this segment is development of the outline of justification, to be used by the line ministry when putting forward the draft for opinions of relevant ministries.

  • Participate in vetting the all prepared documents in the scope of this project (the Concept, New LPC, Drafts of changes to sectoral laws and drafts of new and of changes to the existing bylaws)

USAID BEP will organize presentations of prepared documents with the aim to inform the stakeholders and general public on proposed reforms and solicit feedback for the Grantee to use to fine-tune the documents that are part of the project deliverables. Timing of presentations will be chosen to provide for maximum impact in terms of stakeholders reached and feedback received. The role of the Grantee is to actively participate in these activities, particularly in presenting developed materials and in recording and analyzing feedback from stakeholders. After the feedback is received, the Grantee will revise the documents as necessary.

  • Assist the Government of Serbia to finalize the New LPC, amendments to the sectoral laws and drafts of new and changes to the existing bylaws of critical importance for the implementation of the reformed legislative framework

This activity will include participation in and technical support to the GoS bodies that will be preparing official drafts of legal acts as described above and making necessary adjustments to prepared material in accordance with the comments received from the executive and legislative branches of the government in the process of adoption of those legal acts.

In completing all activities, the Grantee will work collaboratively and consult regularly with stakeholders' representatives and experts' community, including government officials, representatives of businesses and USAID BEP staff and consultants.

The Grantee should be available to media to explain general directions of reform, but all media communication should be agreed on with USAID BEP.

Deliverables

The following are the specific deliverables, which will also serve as milestones for Fixed Obligation Grant disbursements (the date of signing of the grant agreement will be hereinafter referred to as "Contracting date"):

  • Draft of the Concept of the Construction Permits (CP) Reform (by Contracting date plus two weeks)
  • Public discussion and vetting of the Draft Concept (by Contracting date plus three weeks)
  • The Concept of the Construction Permits (CP) Reform agreed on by key stakeholders (by Contracting date plus three weeks).
  • New LPC drafted (by Contracting date plus two months).
  • Draft Changes to the Sectoral Laws regulating critical elements of the CP processes (by Contracting date plus 12 weeks).
  • Drafts of new bylaws and changes to the existing bylaws of important for the implementation of the reformed legislative framework (by September 1).
  • Completed vetting of all prepared documents in the scope of this project, including the Concept, New LPC, Drafts of changes to sectoral laws and drafts of new and of changes to the existing bylaws (by October 1).
  • Officially approved drafts of legal documents as described in points 4-6 of the Deliverables section of this RFA (by November 30).

USAID BEP's expectation is that the Grantee and BEP will work closely with relevant Ministry's representatives to bring the drafts of legal documents to the state that Ministry considers them complete enough to be sent to the Government of Serbia and later on to the Parliament. USAID BEP will deem this obligation of the Grantee fulfilled even if the line Ministry and/or Government are not cooperative, providing that the Grantee delivers legal documents considered by USAID BEP to be of satisfactory quality and give their best effort to engage with the GoS representatives in constructive dialogue and secure acceptance of the materials prepared within the scope of this project.

The Concept should be prepared in English language, while drafts of legal documents are to be prepared in Serbian.

Technical progress and final reporting should be submitted in English language.

Staffing

Bidders should propose a multi-disciplinary team that will combine legal expertise and knowledge on technical and administrative aspects of the construction permits.

The team must comprise the following expertise:

Key experts

Bidders should specify (name and relevant experience, plus CV) a team of legal experts with knowledge and experience in the construction permits process, real property law, legislative drafting, public administration and any other specific areas that are necessary to successfully complete the Grant Activities listed above.  The team should include at least one senior legal expert with both technical and legislative drafting knowledge and experience.  Bidders should propose a mix of senior, mid, and junior level legal experts that the bidder feels will provide high quality deliverables at an appropriate cost.

Non-key experts

Bidders should not specify the non-key experts, but should budget for the following positions:

  • At least one economist (real-estate/financial expert);
  • At least one expert in spatial/urban planning;
  • At least one engineer with relevant knowledge of construction permitting;

Bidders may also budget for research and administrative support as needed.  Bidders should also demonstrate how the team and the work on completing deliverables will be managed.

Note: The Applicant is not obliged to propose names nor provide CVs of non-key experts in the application. However, the bidders should propose budgets envisioning approximately 65-75 days for engagement of these types of experts. Their names will be defined in the pre-contracting phase.

Section 2 – Award Information

Subject to the availability of funds, USAID BEP intends to provide up to USD 50,000 (fifty thousand US dollars payable in Serbian dinars) in total funding to be allocated over a 12 month period. The anticipated period of performance of the grant is expected to start from April 8, 2013. USAID BEP anticipates awarding one Fixed Obligation Grant under this RFA. Under a Fixed-Obligation Grant, all payments will be a fixed-sum payable upon completion of deliverables, which will be defined in detail during grant agreement negotiations.

USAID BEP's approval of the each deliverable and express authorization is a precondition for the Grantee to continue implementation of the project and proceed with the next activity as listed above. USAID BEP might at any stage withhold its authorization for no fault of Grantee whatsoever, should developments in this field advise such a course of action.

Section 3 – Eligibility Information

Eligible organizations shall be able to comply with and achieve the proposed Program Description, Tasks, and Results and have a satisfactory performance record and record of integrity and business ethics.

Eligible organizations include legally registered US, Serbian, and third country non-for-profit, for-profit, governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including educational and training institutions.

Prior to the award of grant under this RFA, successful Applicants will be required to sign a Certification Regarding Terrorist Financing certifying that the Applicant’s organization does not provide and has never provided assistance to terrorists for terrorist activities. Successful Applicants may also be required to sign other Certifications as applicable to the award. The Certifications are attached as Annex 2 of this RFA.

Ineligible organizations include:

  • Public International Organizations;
  • Entities that have misused USAID funds in the past, organizations that advocate, promote or espouse anti-democratic policies or illegal activities;
  • Political parties or institutions;
  • Organizations that intend to use the grant for religious objectives;
  • Organizations that are on the list of parties excluded from federal procurement and non-procurement programs or the United Nations Security Sanctions Committee.

Section 4 – Application and Submission of Information

Applicants should submit applications in writing to: Jasmina Debeljak Maljkovic electronically, via email at grants@bep.rs. The Closing Date for submission of applications is March 29, 2013, and the Closing Time for Submission of Applications is 15:00 hours Local Belgrade Time. Late applications will not be considered.

All applications in response to this RFA shall consist of a technical proposal and a budget proposal. The technical proposal must not be longer than 10 pages in length. Pages submitted in excess of 10 pages will not be reviewed. Supporting documents and CV of the proposed key staff members, which the Applicants are required to submit (please see the Application Form), will not be counted toward the 10 pages limit. The technical proposal must be submitted in English, while the supporting documents can be provided in original language (Serbian) or English. The cost proposal shall be submitted as a separate file from the technical proposal. Applicants are advised to fill in the budget form as detailed as possible. Lump sums will not be accepted. Applicants are allowed to add new lines and modify the budget lines (not Budget Headings) according to the needs of the proposal’s activities. The required format for applications is included as Annex 1 - Full Application Form and Annex 1A – Budget Form.

Note: USAID BEP's grants Inbox has a 10MB limitation, thus be advise to send files exceeding this limit in several separate emails.

Section 5 – Application Review Information

Applications will be evaluated in accordance with the criteria set forth below. The criteria have been tailored to the requirements of this RFA. Applications should note that these criteria serve to: (a) identify the significant matters which Applicants should address in their applications; and (b) set the standard against which all applications will be evaluated.

To the extent necessary, USAID BEP may request clarification and supplemental materials from Applicants whose applications have a reasonable chance of being selected for Award. The entry into discussion is to be viewed as part of the evaluation process and shall not be deemed as indicative of a decision or commitment upon the part of USAID BEP to make an award to the Applicants with whom discussions are being held.

Applications will be evaluated by the Grants Selection Committee on the basis of 100 possible points.

The weighting of various sections will be as follows:

Category

Maximum Precentages
(100 Total)

Methodology, Activities and Outcomes 
Staffing/Management Plan
Personnel Management Plan     
Relevant Past Experience and Performance
Cost Effectiveness
Total Possible Points

15
40
10
15
20
100

 

  • Methodology and Activities (15 points): Is the methodology for getting to the Concept and draft of legal documents clear? Are the activities stated in detail?  Are the expected outcomes and impacts stated in detail?  Does the Applicant demonstrate how the activities will obtain the desired results? Does the Applicant provide innovative and practical ideas to address the issues? The proposal should include a suggested list of sectoral laws and bylaws whose drafts (or draft amendments) will be developed in the scope of this project.
  • Staffing (Key Experts) (40 points): Does the Applicant propose Key Experts with experience and skills necessary to successfully implement the proposed activities? Does the Applicant have proposed Key Experts capable of credibly presenting the work under this RFA to the public through mass media?  Do the Key Experts have legal skills and experience in the construction permits process, real property law, legislative drafting, and any other necessary subjects
  • Personnel Management Plan (10 points): Does the proposed personnel management plan reflect the personnel/management needs of the grant activity? Do bidders propose an appropriate mix of senior, mid, and junior level legal experts?
  • Relevant Past Experience and Performance (15 points): Does the organization/consortium have relevant past experience successfully implementing similar activities?
  • Cost Effectiveness (20 points): What resources are provided for the proposed cost?  Is the proposed budget realistic, well-thought out, and in-line with the proposed activities? Are the proposed costs reasonable, allowable and allocable to the grant? Is the grantee contributing cost-share or providing in-kind support?

The selection of the Applicant for award will be made by the USAID BEP's Grant Selection Committee. Prior to the award of any resultant grant agreement, USAID BEP must obtain prior approval from USAID.

Section 6 – Award and Administration Information

Before the applications’ specified expiration date, successful applicant(s) will receive written notice from the Grants Manager informing the applicant(s) that USAID BEP either intends to award a grant to the applicant without negotiation, or that USAID BEP intends to engage the applicant(s) in further negotiations with respect to a potential grant award. Negotiations conducted after the receipt of an application do not constitute an obligation on the part of USAID BEP to award a grant. Unsuccessful applicants will be notified in writing by the Grants Manager.

Any resultant award will be subject to the terms and conditions of the Prime Contract for the USAID Business Enabling Project (for US organizations: 22 CFR 226, OMB Circulars, and the Standard Provisions for U.S. Non-governmental Recipients; for non-US organizations: Standard Provisions for Non-U.S. Non-governmental Recipients).

Section 7: Annexes

Annex 1: Full Grant Application Form and Budget Form
Annex 2: Certifications

 

 

 

 

 







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