How technology can fight corruption in public contracting

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Potential corruption in public contracting can have far-reaching effects, wasting taxpayers’ money, distorting markets and harming public trust in government. Therefore, Open Contracting is essential to ensure that public contracting processes are transparent and accountable.

Technology can play a vital role in open contracting, providing the platform for open data initiatives and helping to drive innovation in the field. open data standards and platforms such as the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) provide a framework for publishing available data on public contracts, making it easier to detect potential corrupt activity. Open data analytical tools can then be used to find trends and patterns in this data, helping to uncover instances of corruption.

Open data in public procurement around the world: what are the possibilities?

Panama Papers leak

Photo by iMattSmart on Unsplash

Open data has played a significant role in recent corruption scandals worldwide. In 2015, for example, the Panama Papers leak revealed how some politicians and public figures were using offshore companies to hide assets and avoid taxes. The leak was made possible because the law firm involved, Mossack Fonseca, had a policy of storing all its data electronically. This allowed an individual with access to the data to download and leak 11.5 million documents, which exposed a vast network of corruption and illicit financial activity.

Paradise Papers

Photo credit to OCCRP

Similarly, in 2016, the so-called “Paradise Papers” leak revealed how some of the world’s wealthiest individuals and corporations used offshore companies to avoid taxes. Once again, this was only possible because of the electronic nature of the data; if the documents had been stored in paper form, it would have been much more challenging to leak them on such a large scale.

Open data can also be used to detect corruption in public contracting. In many countries, information on public contracts is not readily available to the public. This makes it difficult for citizens to hold their government accountable and makes it easier for corruption. However, some countries are beginning to make contract information more available, making it easier to detect crime.

In Uganda, for example, the government has started publishing data on all public contracts through the government procurement portal. This data is then analysed by journalists and civil society organisations, who use it to identify potential instances of corruption.

The Government Procurement Portal

In one recent case, The Africa Freedom of Information Centre used data from the portal to build interactive dashboards and reveal how several companies had been awarded a public contract without following the proper procedures.

Technology can also be used to track procurement processes and identify potential irregularities. The open contracting data standard is being used to track progress on major infrastructure projects in Kenya. This information is then made available to the public so that citizens can hold the government accountable for any delays or problems.

In Ghana, the government uses the OCDS to publish data on all public contracts. This data is then used by the Ghana Integrity Initiative, a local anti-corruption NGO, to track progress on major infrastructure projects and identify potential instances of corruption.

Technology can also be used to monitor compliance with procurement regulations. In India, for example, the Central Vigilance Commission has developed a software application that can be used to track compliance with the country’s procurement rules. The application is being used by several government departments and has helped uncover several instances of corruption.

Challenges in detecting corruption through technology

The benefits of using technology to detect crime are clear. Open data can identify trends and patterns that suggest a corrupt activity, and several software programs can help analyse this data. However, challenges remain.

One of the biggest challenges is that not all countries make data on public contracts available to the public. This makes it challenging to detect corruption in those countries. In addition, even when data is available, it can be complex and challenging to analyse. This requires skilled personnel and can be time-consuming.

Another challenge is that technology can only do so much. While it can help identify potential corruption instances, it cannot prove that corruption has taken place. This requires further investigation, which can be difficult, particularly in countries where corruption is widespread.

Despite these challenges, technology can be a powerful force for good in the fight against corruption. With the right tools and techniques, it can help identify potential corruption cases and bring them to light. In this way, technology can play a vital role in ensuring that public officials are held accountable for their actions.



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