A new portal for assessing European public procurement.

By Victoria Dykes, DIGIWHIST

Approximately 15 percent of the EU’s Gross Domestic Product is spent every year on procuring goods and services, and some estimates indicate that corruption can increase the cost of government contracts by 4 to 15 percent – meaning, potentially millions of Euros are being misspent annually, funneled to corrupt ends.

But identifying these trends is far from trivial. Analyzing procurement data involves working with hundreds of thousands, potentially millions of records, sometimes spread across different websites and files. Moreover, this task requires both the technical ability to process large datasets systematically and enough knowledge of public procurement to understand what forms corruption can take and how to identify it within this mass of data.

This is where DIGIWHIST steps in. This Horizon 2020-funded project focuses on transparency in public procurement and has produced a variety of tools to help journalists, civil society actors, and even governments themselves analyze and assess risks of corruption for 35 different countries, including the EU-28. 

Most valuable for journalists is the newly-released Opentender.eu platform. It features procurement data for each of the project’s countries spanning from 2009-2017. Within each country-specific portal, users can get an overview of what procurement looks like in that country through four different dashboards, where users can view both aggregated summary data as well as specific, contract-level data. Each dashboard has an array of interactive data visualizations for users to get a better understanding of the data specifically through indicators:

  • The Market Analysis dashboard gives users an overview of the volume and value of a country’s procurement within a user-defined range of years, both overall and broken down by sector. It also shows which companies have won the highest volume and value of contracts and which government ministries/agencies have issued the most tenders. 

  • The Administrative Capacity dashboard uses five different indicators to assess the ease of use and adherence to international standards present in different procurement systems. The indicators include whether a tender was managed by a central procuring body, whether an electronic auction was used to conduct the tender, and whether bids can be submitted in English. 
  • The Transparency Indicators dashboard offers two different indicators for assessing the transparency of a tender: one that shows the discrepancy between the call for tender and contract award notice for a given tender (i.e., what percentage of fields have different values between the two documents), and an indicator for the percentage of non-blank entries for certain key fields in the call for tender and award notice.

  • The Integrity Indicators dashboard gives a window into the risk of corruption in contracting through seven different indicators, including whether there was just one bit submitted for a given tender, whether a non-open procedure type was used, and how long the decision period was. 

In addition to these dashboards, Opentender also provides general descriptive data like the number of contracts awarded per sector per year or the value of contracts awarded, as well as the ability to search by buyer – for example, if you would like to see all the procurement contracts awarded by a specific government body – or by winning company, if you’re interested in tracking how much government money a given company has been awarded.

All of the Open Tender tables and datasets are available to download as CSV and JSON files. The dataset downloads include DIGIWHIST indicators, meaning data journalists can easily conduct their own analyses in relation to the corruption risk in contracting.

In addition to Opentender, journalists interested in better understanding the depth and breadth of accountability legislation in DIGIWHIST’s target countries can look to EuroPAM. This website, also a DIGIWHIST output, scores countries on 5 different measures based on the extensiveness of legislation in a specific area – financial disclosure, conflict of interest restrictions, freedom of information, public procurement, and political financing. Users can compare countries, view interactive visualizations of legal and regulatory norms, and dive in-depth into how scores were generated.

About the author

Victoria Dykes is a researcher with the DIGIWHIST project, which focuses on increasing transparency and accountability in European public procurement processes through the analysis and publishing of open procurement data. Currently she is also involved in research on the implications of blockchain technology for public administration and the fight against corruption, including through co-authoring a larger report for the German development agency (GIZ). She has a Masters of Public Policy from the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, where she focused on quantitative research and digitalization.

Explore Opentender here.