Combating corruption in the EU through e-Procurement

Recently Transparency International submitted a response to the European Commission consultations on expanding the use of e-Procurement, which you can download here.

The Commission consultation document (‘Green Paper’) contained no mention of corruption, and so we found it imperative to let the European Commission (EC) know how e-Procurement is not only a tool for bringing efficiency savings, but one that can ensure high standards of transparency and integrity in the EU when implemented properly.

E-Procurement is a fantastic tool for reducing corruption and increasing integrity in public procurement systems. Globally there have been concrete examples in Albania – here and here – and also in South Korea, amongst others. This show that e-Procurement provides not just a step, but a leap forward in terms of increasing the integrity of public procurement systems.

Rightly so, the EC is pushing forward with expanding e-Procurement in these tough times to increase competitiveness and efficiency, which will also allow for extended checks and balances.

We at Transparency International believe however, that no matter how many checks and balances are contained within a new, expanded e-Procurement system, some of the most important have not been directly incorporated into the plan – people.

Public interest groups received little attention in the Commission’s Green Paper and any effort to build or expand e-Procurement systems should have public stakeholders at the heart of the design process to ensure that the system is working in the people’s interests, combating bribery and corruption and putting in place a public procurement system that people can trust.

Transparency should also be rooted in e-Procurement systems design. One key advantage of e-Procurement is how easy it is to log data on public contracting and make this available to the public. The European Commission should push to ensure that whatever is legally allowed to be made available for public viewing is released in an open and usable format and in a timely fashion.

Transparency International Georgia have previously documented on problems with the data formats used in accessing public procurement information which prevented the public easily accessing and utilising the information contained within them.

In order to do justice to the e-Procurement system, this opportunity for transparency must be taken and all must be done by governments in all EU member states and by the European Union itself to ensure as much procurement information is made accessible to the public wherever legally possible.

Only then will the EC be able to forge a pan-European public procurement system inspires confidence and trust!

John Warnes, Transparency International Liaison Office to the EU

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