News 14th Sep 2016

Plugging the Hole: Procurement and Anti-Corruption


Jameela Raymond

Senior Policy Officer

Jameela is TI-UK’s Senior Policy Officer, working closely on coordinating UK and international anti-corruption policies and collaborating with civil society organisations and policy experts around the world. Jameela was previously TI-UK’s Public Engagement Officer (2014-2016), and recently completed her MSc in Globalisation and Latin American Development at UCL. She is enthusiastic about issues of development, politics, race, gender, equality and diversity.

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When public contracts are won by companies with hidden owners or with links to anonymous companies, public money can be wasted and services weakened. The individuals behind these secret companies have been found to  overcharge countries for basic supplies for military troopssiphon off huge chunks of public land and forests  and steal the equivalent of a national education budget – all for personal profit.

Around US$9.5trillion of public money is spent by governments through public procurement, yet corruption drains between 20 and 25 per cent of public procurement budgets.

It is no surprise, then, that when world leaders met in London this year at the Anti-Corruption Summit open contracting, public procurement and beneficial ownership were the issues highest on the agenda. Around a quarter of the total commitments counted by Transparency International focused on beneficial ownership or public procurement. But all of these commitments will be no more than hot air if they are not properly implemented by the governments that made them.

The opening paragraph of the Summit communiqué rightly states that ‘No country is immune from corruption and governments need to work together and with partners from business and civil society to tackle it successfully.’ This is why Transparency International, Wilton Park, the B Team and the Open Contracting Partnership are bringing together government and civil society representatives from 10 countries that made beneficial ownership or public procurement commitments at the Summit.

Today representatives from Afghanistan, Argentina, Colombia, France, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Ukraine and the UK will be joined by global experts, anti-corruption practitioners, private sector representatives and others who are involved in increasing integrity in public procurement. This two day practical workshop will help delegates from the 10 countries to develop a better understanding of how to take the next steps towards implementing commitments made at the Anti-Corruption Summit.

This workshop is the first international opportunity for follow-up on the pledges made at the Summit, but this is only the beginning. Around a third of the 648 commitments made were assessed as being ‘ambitious’, and it is crucial that those ambitious governments receive the guidance to make their aspirational promises as feasible and realistic as possible.

In September 2017 governments will meet at the United Nations General Assembly, where they will look back at the progress made on the many commitments made at the Summit. Before then, we must take every available opportunity to follow up on the individual and collective promises made by our leaders.  An example of this follow up is the UK Anti-Corruption Pledge Tracker, launched by Transparency International UK earlier this week, which will monitor the progress of the UK Government’s Summit commitments. We hope that this tool will help us to hold our Governments to account, galvanising them to turning ambitious promises into real action.