REQUEST FOR APPLICATIONS (RFA)

Providing Assistance to the Government of Serbia in Establishing a Unit for Expert Support for Implementation of the Law on Planning and Construction

Issuance Date: FEBRUARY 4, 2015
Deadline for Receipt of Questions: FEBRUARY 27, 2015 by 3 p.m. CET
Closing Date/Time for Submission of Applications: MARCH 6, 2015 by 3 p.m. CET

SUBJECT:    Request for Applications (RFA) Number: RFA-2015-01

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 or Serbian non-profit, for-profit, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for a grant to provide assistance to the Government of Serbia for Implementation of the Law on Planning and Construction.

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 31.000 (thirty one thousand US dollars payable in Serbian dinars) in total funding to be allocated over a 15 months 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 27, 2015, by 3 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 March 6, 2015, 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

A. 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 policy makers, business representatives, 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 website: http://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.

The purpose of this RFA is to solicit applications to assist creation of a Unit for Expert Support for the implementation of the One Stop Shop and E-permitting. The system should help implementation of Law on Planning and Construction and provide technical support to the line Ministry, province and local authorities and other public agencies and enterprises when interpreting and applying provisions in the law.

B. Grant Activity Description

Problem Statement

In December 2014 National Assembly of Serbia adopted the Law on Amendments to the Law on Planning and Construction. These amendments provide for a new One Stop Shop (OSS) system for issuing construction permits and mandate establishment of an e-Permitting system. The system should streamline communication between investors, the permitting authority (OSS) and governmental agencies and public enterprises that have a role in the process. USAID BEP will support introduction of OSSs by assisting development of the needed legal framework, providing technical assistance for public agencies with the role in construction permitting and by helping define functional and technical specifications for future e-permitting IT system. Starting March 1, 2015, the OSS system should reduce time and costs when issuing construction permits. The e-Permitting component should start functioning on January 1, 2016.

The extent of changes to the Law on Planning and Construction, and introduction of the OSS concept in particular, presents a one of biggest challenges that Serbian public administration faced lately.  Obtaining all required documentation from public entities by permitting authorities instead of investors raises a number of complex organizational questions; the same is true for the reduced role of public administration in controlling technical documentation and increased role in controlling compliance in the building process. Public enterprises and other system operators understandably expect challenges in providing all necessary conditions for completing the structures based only on concept design of the future building. There is no public or private center of expertise that could help permitting authorities and other public enterprises deal with these and other challenges by providing timely answers to practical questions about implementation of the law. Thus, the GoS with help from USAID BEP, plans to set up a Unit for Expert Support.

The Unit for Expert Support should help local authorities and other public entities that have a role in permitting process to correctly interpret and apply provisions in the Law, and to implement the OSSs properly. The Unit is not envisaged as a formal, permanent part of the GoS structure, but rather as an ad-hoc, informal unit consisted of combination of the MoTI staff, consultants and external support staff. The exact staffing contribution of the MoCTI to the Unit will be defined in the forthcoming period.  The Unit for Expert Support should be fully operational in two phases: a) around beginning of implementation of the OSSs and b) around beginning of implementation of e-Permitting.

Purpose and Objectives

The purpose of the grant is to develop capacities of the GoS to provide guidance to permitting bodies for implementation of the LPC and for making OSS fully operational in order to reduce time and costs associated with construction permits.

The objective of the grant is to enable the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure to significantly increase efficiency of issuing construction permit process.

Grant Activities

The Applicant is encouraged to propose activities to support implementation of the LPC and specifically the functions of the Unit for Expert Support for the implementation of the LPC. At the minimum, the application should include following:

  • Upgrade of the official website of the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, adding a separate section – texts of relevant laws and regulations, Help Desk, Q&A section and web forum for implementation of the LPC –  or creation of a separate web-site with that content; 
  • Staffing the Call Center for at least 480 working hours during implementation of the Grant to answer phone and e-mail inquiries about implementation of the LPC and to provide feedback to callers as appropriate. The Call Center staff will keep the record of all asked questions and prepare bi-weekly reports (number of calls,  most frequently asked questions, time needed to get the answer from experts, and other similar analyses);
  • Senior and junior expert that will review requests for opinions of the MoCTI, prepare drafts of the official opinions and work with the officials of the MCTI to have drafts of the answers and opinions officially endorsed before making them public;
  • Publish newsletters (in the course of implementation of OSSs and in the course of implementation of e-Permitting) with discussion on most important issues and an overview of most relevant questions and answers.

The Applicant is encouraged to propose organizing seminars for the implementing bodies to discuss open issues in implementation of the LPC and at least one seminar for investors to discuss open issues in implementation of the LPC.

The Applicant is required to propose detailed time-line for proposed activities, indicating periods of full and reduced functionality of the call center and other elements of the Unit for Expert Support. The time-line should fully reflect deadlines for implementation of key segments of the LPC (OSSs and e-Permitting system).

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.

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"):

  • Separate section of a website featuring material and services relevant for implementation of the LPC is up and running (within 30 days following the Contracting date);
  • Staffing the Call Center for at least 480 working hours during implementation of the Grant is provided (call center functional within not more than 15 days following the Contracting date);
  • The Call Center bi-weekly reports delivered;
  • Responses to implementation questions prepared, officially endorsed and communicated back to callers (first set of questions responded, responses endorsed and communicated back within not more than 20 days following the Contracting date;
  • LPC implementation newsletters published (first newsletter produced within not more than 25 days following the Contracting date, and first newsletter covering the e-Permitting produced not later than December 19, 2015);
  • Final Report.

All written deliverables must be submitted in Serbian language, with the exception of the Final Report that must be produced in English language.

Section 2 – Award Information

Subject to the availability of funds, USAID BEP intends to provide up to 31.000 (thirty one thousand US dollars payable in Serbian dinars) in the total funding to be allocated over a four month period. The anticipated period of performance of the grant is expected to start by the end of March 2015. 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 March 6, 2015, 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 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.

According to the Mandatory Standard Provisions for Non-U.S., Nongovernmental Recipients, administrative regulations on Cost Principles for Non-Profit Organizations (OMB Circular A-122), and Cost Principles for Commercial/For-Profit Organizations (Federal Acquisition Regulations - FAR 31.2), taxes, including value added taxes, are not allowable costs where an exemption or refund of such taxes mechanism exists. Please do not budget VAT cost in the project budget breakdown.

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 Points (100 Total)

Understanding of Key Issues

15

Grant Activity Goals, Objectives and Methodology

15

Outcomes / Expected Results

20

Proposed Tasks and Activities

15

Staffing / Management Plan

15

Relevant Past Experience and Performance

10

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 (15 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 (20 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?
  • Proposed Tasks and Activities (15 points): Does the applicant propose specific activities that are logical, realistic, and relevant to the grant activity’s goal?
  • Staffing/Management Plan (15 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 (10 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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