Government procurement contracts: how can China’s NGOs improve?

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Once NGOs in China were allowed to bid for government procurement contracts, many did just that — keen to demonstrate their ability and professionalism. Many wanted to explore a new social governance model:

  • Initiated by the government;
  • Undertaken by NGOs;
  • Managed according to contract terms;
  • Monitored through professional evaluations.

In fact, following the third plenary meeting of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, held in November 2013, the government adopted a series of administrative measures to promote this model.

However, based on their progress over the years, it seems that China’s NGOs have not met the government’s expectations, with officials often feeling organizations are insufficiently professional and rarely capable.

Why do China’s NGOs perform poorly when providing government services?

First, over reliance on government funding. It is difficult for many NGOs to find a more reliable source of funding than applying for government projects, but government projects are diverse. In order to continue to win government funds, many NGOs have chosen to expand their scope to qualify for more projects, instead of focusing on the areas that they specialize in;

Second, the bureaucracy of project management and monitoring means that many NGOs devote most of their energy to paperwork, rather the projects.

In addition, short project periods, too many projects undertaken at the same time, lack of staff, insufficient funding and monitoring are other common reasons that NGOs struggle to provide government services.

However some suggestions have been made to improve the situation:

  • Social organizations should have a clear understanding of themselves, and should not blindly expand in order to win government funds;
  • For the government, a third-party professional organization should be introduced to monitor the results of projects undertaken by NGOs, rather than making subjective judgments on their own;
  • For the project design, as well as the preparation of budget, the government should carefully consider the actual situation.

Despite many problems exposed in recent years, the participation of NGOs in government procurement is still in line with the needs of social development, and it can be improved in the following three aspects: budget management, contract management, and third-party evaluation.