FOR PUBLIC CONTRACTS
40%SPENDING, SIGN OFF &
Public procurement represents around one
third of public spending in developed
countries (OECD, 2013).
20 per cent of EU GDP annually spent by
government, public sector and utility service
providers for goods, services and public
The European Parliament
found that corruption and
fraud in contracting in EU
countries may cost taxpayers
Former head of Chicago Public
Schools cheated to help her
former employer get contracts,
most prominently a $20 million
sole-source training contract in
exchange for kickbacks. The
Economist concluded that
“stealing from Chicago’s poorest
children (the vast majority of
children at the city’s public
schools are black or Hispanic and
from poor families) is a new low,
even by Chicago standards.”
Byrd-Bennett will probably get
about seven years in prison.
Contracting is doing
to open up the data
The Open Contracting Partnership is a
silo-busting collaboration across government,
business, civil society and technologists
working to transform public contracting
worldwide using open data and improved
oversight from multi-stakeholder cooperation
Open Contracting connects
to open up & monitor public contracting
Government Business Civil society
What we do
■ Advocacy that challenges vested interests and changes the
global norm in public contracting from closed to open.
■ Support for a network of partners who implement open
contracting projects and the adoption of the Open
Contracting Data Standard. Where necessary, we’ll be
leading speciﬁc demonstration projects ourselves.
■ Learning how and why open contracting works and
gathering compelling evidence of what open contracting
AFGHANISTAN ALBANIA ARGENTINA AUSTRALIA,
CANADA CHILE COLOMBIA COSTA RICA DOMINICAN
REPUBLIC FRANCE GEORGIA GHANA GUATEMALA
IRELAND ITALY KENYA MACEDONIA MEXICO
MOLDOVA MONGOLIA NIGERIA PARAGUAY
ROMANIA, SIERRA LEONE UGANDA UK UKRAINE
UNITED STATES URUGUAY VIETNAM ZAMBIA
BUENOS AIRES (ARGENTINA) BOJONEGORO
(INDONESIA) ELGEYO MARAKWET (KENYA) JALISCO
(MEXICO) MEXICO CITY (MEXICO) MONTREAL
(CANADA) SCOTLAND (UK)
● Replicating freedom of information laws. Open contracting is a proactive
approach to disclosure that levels the playing ﬁeld, ensuring that
information is available to everyone, not reactively and privately exchanged
between individuals making FOI requests.
● An e-procurement system (i.e. an electronic system for publishing and
marketing tenders online). Open contracting can improve e-procurement
by structuring, linking and publishing documents and data related to the
planning, procurement and implementation of public contracting.
● The end of legitimate commercial sensitivity. There will always be a
balance between the need to redact commercially sensitive or private
information and the open-by-default approach.
Open Contracting is not...
Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS)
Planning Tender Award ImplementationContract
Uniﬁed, structured data & records
(with unique IDs etc)
& MDB projects
has been endorsed
by the Cabinet Ofﬁce
and GDS. The
be found here.
What Open Contracting Data Standard is not
a licensed standard
unable to work without
an overhaul of all
Open Contracting and
ProZorro has saved the
government £1.2 billion,
or 1.4 per cent of GDP.
According to a 2017
survey, 29 per cent of
businesses believe the
system is corrupt. In 2016,
59 per cent did.
Open contracting reforms save Ukraine more than $1 billion
• Exposed price-fixing
scheme that increased
costs by 45%
• Increased 14 suppliers
• 700,000 meals served
about the commercial
conﬁdentiality of contracts?
We've talked to
over 70 experts
from more than
20 countries and
little evidence that
Intelligently and intentionally making public contracting
information ‘open by design’ will lead to signiﬁcantly
improved outcomes. Any concern that this would lead to what
we call the three Cs of breaking commercial conﬁdentiality,
harming competition and enabling collusion doesn't hold up.
The evidence now shows what these arguments really are -
myths. We have to avoid a lazy default where routine
information is classiﬁed as conﬁdential to prevent public
scrutiny. Governments should not be stiﬂed by the tentacles of
private interests and better understand what they are buying,
from whom and if they're getting their money's worth.
Not all contracting information will be
published all the time but we have to avoid a
lazy default where routine information is
classiﬁed as conﬁdential to prevent scrutiny.
Only 2.7% of defense contracts in Australia
were ﬂagged as conﬁdential and this is from
the most secretive part of government.
Government contracts shouldn’t contain
patented information or commercial secrets.
1. Full contract publication should be the norm – redaction should be the
exception, supported by a public interest justiﬁcation.
2. Government contracting processes should be designed for
3. There should be an enforcement system for ensuring that contracts and
contract information is in fact disclosed in practice and in a usable form.
4. Where there is not up-front requirement for full publication of the
contract, any redaction for commercial sensitivity should be based on a
robust application of the public interest test.
5. The ‘public interest test’ should take into account the economic beneﬁts
of the sharing of commercial information, such as more competitive
public contracting, as well as the broader case for the public’s right to
6. It is particularly important that the pieces of information needed to judge value
for money are disclosed.
7. Governments should issue clear guidance to public entities, agencies and
ﬁrms on the issue of when contract information may be exempted from
publication on the basis of commercial sensitivity to set clear expectations and
8. When a case by case redaction approach is used, only the contracting party
that claims potential direct ﬁnancial harm from a speciﬁc release of information
should be able to request redaction of information.
9. When a case by case redaction approach is used there should be a clear
process and time limits for determining what is redacted in individual contracts,
why, for how long, and with what appeals process.
10. Redaction on the grounds of commercial conﬁdentiality should be grounds for
increased scrutiny through other oversight mechanisms.
Red ﬂags for
the green light to
● introductory guide to how countries can
reference their procurement data against a
set of over 150 suspicious behavior
indicators, or “red flags.”
● flags occur at all points along the entire
chain of public procurement-from planning
to tender to award to the contract, itself, to
implementation-and not just during the
award phase, which tends to be the main
focus in many procurement processes.
Corruption can happen at different
stages of the procurement cycle
Planning Tender Award ImplementationContract
High number of
contract awards to
award and ﬁnal
contract award on
Short notice to
- Similarities btw
Change orders to
multiple by a
of supply terms
Bidder that has
Final prize is
delivery of service
Winning supplier provides a substantially lower bid price than
INFORMATION ABOUT SUPPLIER BIDS
Winning bid is too close to price estimate.
COMPARE BUDGET WITH FINAL CONTRACT
Company has no history in providing service or product:
PRIOR CONTRACTS & DESCRIPTION OF COMPANY PURPOSE E.G.
COLLUSION / CARTELS
The difference between bid prices is an exact percentage (a whole
INFORMATION ABOUT SUPPLIER BIDS
Companies registered vs companies actually providing vs
control of market
ANALYSIS OF CONTRACT AWARDS
& DATA ON COMPANIES IN SECTOR
Single bidder only
(limited, competitive, direct)
Use of direct awards/exceptions
Multiple contract winner
WHO ARE THE TOP SUPPLIERS?
LOOK BY SECTORS, e.g. HEALTH
● The eligibility criteria for deciding which companies can bid
for a contract can be set too narrowly, including by favouring a
preferred company. For example, the UK High Court found that
the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority fudged an evaluation of
tender requirements to prevent the disqualiﬁcation of one of the
bidders for a £7 billion contact.
● Issue the tender at an inconvenient time. The week before
Christmas can be good. Half of the contracts that Slovenia
announced then only received one bid.
FIXING THE PLANS
● Inside information can be shared with a preferred company
such as one company receiving the terms of reference before
● The tender can be not very well advertised. Doing this has the
effect – whether intentional or not – of discouraging bids from
unfavoured companies. In an extreme example of this, the only
place that a €120 million tender in Slovakia was advertised was on
a bulletin board in a corridor inside a closed-off ministry building.
● Competing companies can conspire to drive up prices: Such
cartels are a big problem – the European Commission imposed
€1.9 billion in ﬁnes on cartels in 2017.
● Contracts can be awarded to companies
with a clear conﬂict of interest. For example,
the ex-head of Chicago Public Schools
funnelled contracts to an ex-employer who
she was still secretly working for. Nigeria’s
ex-oil minister, Dan Etete, handed out a
contract for an offshore oil block to a company
that turned out to be his.
● Contracts can be given out without any bids
at all. For example, more than $23 million of
contracts for schools in Chicago were given
out without any other bids being received, in
return for kickbacks and bribes to the head of
city’s public schools.
● Modifying the contract after it’s
been awarded so that it’s even
more favourable to ‘chosen’
company. Contracts can often
end up costing much more than
the original award.
● Turning a blind eye to shoddy
implementation. In China,
schools that should have been
earthquake-proof have collapsed
on children. And in Romania,
hospital patients have died
because the disinfectant was
A RED FLAG DOES NOT MEAN
THAT THERE IS CORRUPTION
A red ﬂag is something anomalous that deserves
It is not proof that anything is wrong or that a transaction is corrupt,
collusive, fraudulent, or otherwise illicit. A ﬂag cannot, and is not intended
to, prove corruption in the procurement process.
Flags can, however, oﬀer insight into the risk of corrupt or illicit behavior in
individual contracts and signal troubling patterns across the procurement
system worthy of further investigation. The use of analytics for red ﬂagging
may also showcase more general opportunities to increase integrity and
value for money across the procurement process.
We’re going to look at the
landscape in the UK.
What data is available, what’s
missing & how to
The value of public sector
procurement within the UK
The UK is the ﬁrst G7
country to commit to
Standard (OCDS) for
administered by a
authority, the Crown
The cross-government anti-corruption
strategy provides a framework to guide
UK government action to tackle
corruption for the period to 2022.
“Reduce corruption in public
procurement and grants” (priority 4) is
identiﬁed as one of the 6 priority areas.
The strategy discusses the UK’s
commitment to open contracting
principles and data standard. It also
promises a review of local procurement
OPEN GOVERNMENT PARTNERSHIP
In 2013, the UK endorsed the Open
Contracting global principles in its
second Open Government
Partnership National Action Plan. In
2016, in its third Open Government
National Action Plan, the UK
“To implement the Open
Contracting Data Standard in the
Crown Commercial Service’s
operations by October 2016; we will
also begin applying this approach
to major infrastructure projects,
starting with High Speed Two and
rolling out the data standard across
The 2016 NAP was announced at the
International Anti Corruption Summit, hosted
by the UK government on 12th
May 2016. In the
Anti Corruption Summit Communique, 40
governments agreed to: “ensure public
contracts are awarded and managed openly,
accountably and fairly, consistent with
applicable law – making public procurement
open by default – so that citizens and
businesses can have a clear public record of
how public money is spent.”
It is worth noting that under Open
Government Partnership Sub-National
program, Scotland committed to implement
Open Contracting Data Standard and
released a strategy in late 2017.
The Open Data Charter is a
governments and experts
working to open up data. It was
founded in 2015 around six
principles for how governments
should be publishing
information. The aspiration was
that data should be open by
default, timely and
interoperable. More than 70
governments and organisations
have joined the movement.
The governments of Colombia, France, Mexico,
United Kingdom, Ukraine and Argentina, have
agreed to come together to found the Contracting 5,
a group of governments working to foster openness,
innovation, integrity and better business and civic
engagement in government contracting and
procurement through the Open Contracting global
principles and data standard.
MAYOR OF LONDON
The Mayor’s ofﬁce has committed to ‘research
the viability of the Open Contracting Data
Standard and explore new routes to market’ as
part of its new “Smarter London Together”
Who must publish what...
Publish advertised and awarded
opportunities (tenders, awards)
Over £10 000 on Contracts Finder
and EU’s Tenders Electronic Daily
Over £25 000 on Contracts Finder
and EU’s Tenders Electronic Daily
Central and local government bodies
(including NHS) are required to publish the
details of their expenditure transactions
every month. This document provides links to
the ofﬁcial guidance and details of how to
add it to data.gov.uk.
Once a month
Quarterly though monthly is recommended
Just 27% of
The reality of doing this work systematically...
• Web scraping e.g. Chrome extension Scraper
• Python and panda libraries to better analyse large data sets
(use Jupyter notebooks to document what you’ve done)
• Use the Open Contracting Data Standard as a tool to link
and identify information and structure your datasets
• Tools to visualise and search OCDS data
GOOD OLD FASHIONED FOIA
• National portals
• Debarred companies: World Bank, AfDB, ADB, AIIB
• International Finance Institutions: contract awards World Bank,
UN Global Marketplace, UN Procurement & Annual Statistical
Report, UN Development Business, AfDB, ADB, AIIB
• Extractives Industries: 40+ countries disclosing contract
information here including the UK (see here)
• Others: Panama Papers or Offshore leaks database by ICIJ
WHERE TO FIND DATA
● Company information
● Beneﬁcial ownership
● Land registry
● EU tenders
data set to
monitor 2. Build a list of where
& what information
you have access to
3. Set up a database to
4. Make better FOIA
requests for the speciﬁc
info that is missing
5. Got a story? Talk to us. Let
us know if you've written a cool story!
Our helpdesk can also help with
technical questions if you’re working
on a public interest investigation.
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