REQUEST FOR APPLICATIONS (RFA)

The Role of Good Accounting in Access to Finance

Issuance Date: JANUARY 29, 2014
Deadline for Receipt of Questions: FEBRUARY 21, 2014 by 4 p.m. CET
Closing Date/Time for Submission of Applications: FEBRUARY 28, 2014 by 3 p.m. CET

SUBJECT:    Request for Applications (RFA) Number: RFA-2014-01

The USAID Business Enabling Program 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 or Serbian non-profit, for-profit, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for a grant to educate small and medium enterprises (SMEs), as well as their associations, about the effects of a good accounting on SMEs access to finance, as well as to increase public awareness regarding this issue.

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 $23,000 (twenty three 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.

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 February 21, 2014, by 4 p.m. 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 February 28, 2014, and the Closing Time for Submission of Applications is 3 p.m. 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. 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 policymakers, businesspeople, experts, and others to improve the business enabling environment and macroeconomic framework. The activity 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. The Business Enabling Project is made up of three components:

Component 1, Business Regulation and Economic Governance, streamlines laws, regulations, and institutions; improves regulators’ capacity to implement laws; and improves analysis and public-private dialogue.

Component 2, Macroeconomic Policy and Public Financial Management, helps the Government implement new budget and fiscal responsibility laws, improve budgeting, increase public disclosure and transparency, strengthen public debt management, and improve economic analysis and forecasting.

Component 3, Financial Market Development, works on improving regulatory frameworks for non-bank institutions, develop capacity to strengthen and expand capital markets, and improve conditions for access to finance for small and medium enterprises.

USAID BEP’s activities in Components 1, 2, and 3 are described in more detail on USAID BEP’s websites at www.bep.rs and www.policycafe.rs.

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. This RFA is issued to support USAID BEP’s efforts in Component 3. The purpose of this RFA is to solicit applications to educate and raise awareness of SMEs about correlation between good accounting and access to finance and how to choose a good accountant. The main activities called for in this RFA include:

  • Development of quality high-level materials tailor-made for Serbian SMEs and their level of knowledge and education (to include exercises, case studies and links to training videos and testimonials); the materials should be prepared for further public dissemination through various business-oriented web pages/portals;
  • Development and implementation of training for SMEs on the correlation between good accounting and access to finance, emphasizing how to differentiate good accountants from bad ones;
  • Production of a training video to provide a visual reference and so assist SMEs learn more effectively and efficiently about the correlation between good accounting and access to finance than by simply reading a manual;
  • Production of video testimonials of Serbian SMEs who believe they have been successful in selecting good accountants on their criteria and requirements in the selection process;
  • Organizing regional roundtables, preferably with local business associations, to discuss the correlation between good accounting and access to finance with SMEs (including how to differentiate good accountants from bad ones), and to promote training video and materials developed;
  • Preparation and execution of a local- and national-level outreach campaign on how to choose a better accountant, including maximizing distribution of video and other materials

Organizations are welcome 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.

Grant Activity Description

Problem Statement

USAID BEP’s research shows that many lenders have suggested they are more concerned about the reliability of information coming from SMEs and the capabilities of the professionals keeping their books and preparing their reports than they are about specific accounting standards. In fact, many of these lenders automatically discount the reliability of financial reports provided by SMEs unless they have a pre-existing relationship with the accountant/firm. This poses a major challenge for SMEs in being able to convince banks they are healthy and creditworthy.

The entrepreneurs themselves may lack financial administrative skills and may be so involved in day-to-day business matters that accounting is usually outsourced to independent accountants. Independent accountants available to SMEs in Serbia vary considerably in their quality and usefulness for the purposes of loan underwriting. Some accountants vie for clients by lowering standards, underpricing their services, or both. These practices lower the credibility of the entire profession and its value for both SMEs and financial institutions, because financial institutions and businesses cannot differentiate good service providers from weak ones.

In addition, SMEs are unable to determine to what extent good accounting supports access to finance. Failing to understanding this, and at the same time not being able to recognize good accountants, SMEs often use the monthly cost of accounting services as the sole criterion for choosing an accounting firm. As a result, SMEs cannot improve their access to finance; on the other hand, there is a lack of demand-side competitive tension that could improve the quality of accounting services so that it could play a role in facilitating SME access to finance.

Purpose and Objectives

The purpose of the grant is to educate SMEs about the importance of good accounting and access to finance. The objective of the grant is to: (1) raise awareness on how and why good accounting positively influences access to finance, and (2) increase knowledge among SMEs so they are able to choose good accountants.

Grant Activities

The successful applicant will:

  • Develop educational materials for SMEs on the correlation between good accounting and access to finance and a guide on how to find a good accountant. The material must be in PDF format, easy to share and disseminate on-line. It should be of high quality, tailor-made for Serbian SMEs and their level of knowledge and education, specific to the topic of this grant and must include exercises, examples and case studies. General accounting and financial management materials will not be considered tailor-made and will not fulfill the requirements stated above. Links to video testimonials and video training chapters (described in greater detail below) should be included in the PDF material. The successful applicant will be able to provide previous relevant examples of high-quality educational materials developed for Serbian SMEs.
  • Develop and organize training with 20 to 30 SME owners that provides instruction on the connection between access to finance and accounting and how to choose a good accountant. The training sessions should be filmed and used: (1) to test the training materials, methodology, etc.; and (2) as part of video training in order to provide more interaction and a question-and-answer session of the video training materials.
  • Film video testimonials of Serbian SMEs who believe they have been successful in selecting a good accountant on their criteria and requirements in the selection process.
  • Develop a video training script. The video script will contain information that is to be imparted to the viewer. The information can be conveyed in the form of a narrative, through dialogue, on-screen text, etc. The video script must demonstrate that the training will involve practical examples from real life, as well as sufficient practice for SMEs. The small and medium-sized enterprises who have watched the video training materials are expected to be able to understand the connection between access to finance and accounting and to choose a good accountant. The successful applicant will provide a short draft video training script that clearly demonstrates deep understanding of the topic.
  • Organize a series of roundtables throughout Serbia to raise SME awareness of the correlation between good accounting and access to finance and how to choose a good accountant, as well as to promote the materials developed.
  • Develop and implement a local and national outreach campaign. The campaign should include, but not be limited to, coverage in the media (local press, and, where possible local TV) in the region where roundtables are held, as well as the publication of at least two features in media outlets with national coverage (this can include features published on business-oriented web portals), as well as distribution of video and other materials. The main goal is to raise awareness of the public of the correlation between good accounting and access to finance, as well as how to choose a good accountant.

The applicant should prove that its core team, and the potential consortium partner, has strong knowledge of accounting, SME financing, banking, curriculum and training development, video production, as well as substantial experience in delivering training to SMEs in Serbia. The team should include: experienced accountants/financial managers and experienced bankers with proven track records of working with SMEs in at least mid-level management positions, such as head of branch office or higher.

The successful applicant will have to prove that national, regional or local businesses, professional associations and / or other stakeholders (e.g. regional development agencies, NGOs, training centers etc.), are interested in continuing with training efforts after the expiration of the activities under the grant. This may be done through forming consortium, signing Memorandum of Understanding, baseline assessment of sustainability, or in any other way that will provide reasonable confidence that the training will continue.    

Deliverables

  • Indicators to measure the output and outcome of grant activities.
  • Educational material for SMEs on the correlation between good accounting and access to finance and how to choose a good accountant. The material should be in PDF format and should include links to video training chapters and video testimonials.
  • Training curriculum and video training script.
  • Video testimonials produced in format that is easy to share and disseminate online.
  • Video training materials that include: video testimonials, filmed training sessions with SMEs, narrative, filmed instruction provided by trainers, dialogue, on-screen text, etc., in a format that is easy to share and disseminate online.
  • Report on minimum 6 regional roundtable events (national coverage) for between 15 and 30 SME owners and, additionally, regional business associations.
  • Report on an outreach campaign at both local and national levels, including number of SMEs reached by various grant activities.
  • Feasible sustainability plan that presents the possibilities for the continuation of these educational efforts.

The educational material, video training materials and testimonials should be submitted only in Serbian, while the reports should be submitted in English.

Section 2 – Award Information

Subject to the availability of funds, USAID BEP intends to provide up to USD 23,000 (twenty three thousand US dollars payable in Serbian dinars) in total funding to be allocated over an twelve-month period. The anticipated period of performance of the grant is expected to start in March2014. 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.

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 or Serbian non-for-profit, for-profit, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

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 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 February 28, 2014, and the Closing Time for Submission of Applications is 3 p.m. 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 15 pages in length. Pages submitted in excess of 15 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 15 pages limit. The technical proposal must be submitted in English, while the supporting documents can be provided in the 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 advised 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:
(Evaluation criteria and scoring can be adjusted to the specifics of the RFA in question)

Category

Maximum Points (100 Total)

Understanding of Key Issues    

15

Grant Activity Goals, Objectives and Methodology 

20

Outcomes / Expected Results    

10

Staffing/Management Plan           

25

Relevant Past Experience and Performance

20

Cost Effectiveness

10

Total Possible Points

100

 

  • Understanding of the Key Issues (15 points): Does the applicant demonstrate a clear understanding of the problems/key issues that the proposed grant activity will address?
  • Grant Activity Goals, Objectives and Methodology (20 points): Is the overall goal of the proposed grant activity clearly stated and achievable? Does the applicant list specific objectives that will contribute to achieving the grant’s goal? Is the proposed methodology clear and suitable for this kind of analysis and recommendations?
  • Outcomes / Expected Results (10 points): Do the expected results of the proposed grant activities relate to the key issues and overall grant objective? Are anticipated results directly linked to a specific objective? Are the results verifiable?
  • Staffing/Management Plan (25 points): Does the proposed staffing/management plan reflect the personnel/management needs of the grant activity? Does the applicant propose personnel with experience and skills necessary to successfully implement the proposed activities?
  • Past Experience (20 points): Does the organization have relevant past experience successfully implementing similar activities?
  • Cost Effectiveness (10 points): What resources are provided for the proposed costs? Is the proposed budget realistic, well-though 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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