The Importance of Digital Technologies for the Prevention of Corruption
in Public Procurement
In periods following crises and emergencies, such as the one we are living through after the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a high risk that substantial economic and relief stimulus programs implemented in haste by governments may be manipulated by unauthorized persons or entities, and that contracts may be awarded in breach of integrity standards and market rules, through corrupt agreements.
To deal with this challenge, the High-Level Principles adopted by the G20 in 2021 - Preventing and Combating Corruption in Emergencies - recommend guaranteeing adequate levels of integrity and transparency in procurement procedures during the phases of emergency and recovery, without, however, affecting the speed of procedures, by encouraging international cooperation and exchange of information.
Among its “preventive measures”, the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) includes provisions for procurement, setting mandatory minimum standards and requiring systems to be based on “transparency, competition and objective criteria in decision-making”, and “effective, inter alia, in preventing corruption”.
Over the last few years, easy access to computing records and the availability of large amounts of data enabled the adoption of an evidence-based and multi-stakeholder approach to the prevention of corruption in public procurement.
The extensive experience of ANAC in the regulation of the high risk area of public procurement, has highlighted the importance of digitalization of the procurement process and interoperability of public procurement information sources in the prevention of corruption.
The digitalization of procurement processes offers new tools to attain both simplification and high levels of compliance. The use of eProcurement platforms that are able to exchange data with central systems and registers at a relatively low cost produces enormous benefits for users. Through these platforms, it is possible to guarantee the quality and timeliness of information, in addition to respecting the Once Only Principle - a key enabler for the simplification and streamlining of administrative processes.
Open data and transparent procurement also increase competition and innovation, driving value for money for the taxpayer and reducing the scope for corruption.
A further key advantage of having comprehensive, open and transparent data regarding public procurement, and more generally, about public spending, is that it allows for an inclusive approach to the prevention of corruption. In this scenario, non-governmental organizations and citizens can all be involved in the monitoring of public procurement, providing feedback from the point of view of the users and of the ultimate addressees of public policies.
In addition, a cross-country collaboration and the sharing of public procurement information between different institutions will help in the fight against transnational corruption and illicit activities.
(Source: ANAC, Italy)
National Anti-Corruption Authority, Italy https://www.anticorruzione.it/
1 ANAC’s institutional profile: Thanks to its double-headed mission statement, that adds the supervision of public procurement to the prevention of corruption, ANAC is highly experienced in data driven regulation. One of the main assets used in the supervision activities is the National Data base of Public Contracts (BDNCP), which collects and integrates data concerning public procurement procedures. BDNCP promotes transparency and efficiency in the management of public procurement through the digitalization and simplification of the purchasing process, setting a unique reference data source for the public contract market, standardizing the data collected on the life cycle of public contracts and offering the public procurement information as open data. Data come from contracting authorities through a digitalized system that is interoperable with those of the public administrations. Starting from September 2020, the information on public procurement contained in the BDNCP has been made available in open data format, thus facilitating analysis for researchers and stakeholders. This is an important result, as openness facilitates more sophisticated forms of public use of a database that is of strategic interest to the country. ANAC has also made available a self-service analysis dashboard for guided access to the information contained in the database, where it is possible to access a series of useful descriptive statistics, from aggregated data to a more detailed analysis.