Globally, procurement remains one of the government sectors most vulnerable to corruption due to the large funds and high levels of discretion and bureaucracy involved. Transparency is crucial to allow citizens to monitor and review processes, hold decision-makers to account, and encourage fair competition.
Transparency International Mongolia and Transparency International Indonesia have developed innovative approaches to involve civil society in monitoring public procurement processes. These are their stories.
Mongolia: Strengthening accountability in the healthcare sector
Corruption in healthcare is a well known problem, with people encountering bribes to access medical services or unknowingly receiving counterfeit treatments and medicines due to diverted resources. The Global Corruption Barometer – Asia 2020 revealed that 28 per cent of respondents had to rely on personal connections to access public health services in Mongolia and 17 per cent had to pay a bribe.
Transparency International Mongolia identified these problems and decided to take action. Since the beginning of 2022, they joined forces with local CSOs to address procurement challenges and improve accountability. They analysed and visualised data to monitor budgeting and procurement practices at all Regional Diagnosis and Treatment Centres (RDTCs) in the provinces of Dornod, Uvurkhangai, Orkhon and Khovd. Their findings revealed opportunities for improvement in resource allocation, training and documentation.
An analysis of the centre in the Khovd province, located in the far west of the country, found gaps in health procurement data documentation and challenges to access this information. Transparent procurement is crucial to ensure accountability in the healthcare system, yet the publication of data on legal open tenders was inadequate, which hinders fair competition. To address this, the chapter and the local CSO recommended announcing tenders through media outlets as mandated by law and maintaining clear record keeping.
Another significant finding revealed that the centre only allocated 1 per cent of its 2022 budget to dental treatment and equipment despite 90 per cent of Mongolia's population suffering from tooth decay. Recommendations highlight the need for a budget increase.
A key reason for the mismatch between patient needs and budget decisions is the lack of qualified personnel. The Provincial Health Department and RDTCs both handle procurement. But they are both facing a major staff shortage with A3 and A5 certifications, which are granted to those trained in the procurement of goods and services using state and local funds. This shortage means the evaluation committee often lacks qualified professionals. To tackle this, Transparency International Mongolia recommended introducing training programs for the staff to better equip healthcare professionals with the right set of skills, which can ultimately lead to more efficient use of public resources and improved results.
Indonesia: Empowering youth for transparent procurement
Corruption has long affected Indonesia, permeating various sectors and causing significant financial loss. Public procurement in Indonesia accounts for 30 per cent of the total state budget. However, the country suffers an average US$15 billion loss every year due to weak procurement processes, including a lack of transparency.
However, there is hope. The Global Corruption Barometer – Asia 2020 reveals that nearly 60 per cent of Indonesians believe in the power of ordinary people to combat corruption. In response, Transparency International Indonesia placed its bet on young people.
Recognising their power, Transparency International Indonesia launched programs to engage young volunteers in three provinces: Aceh, Jember and Kupang. Not only have these youth-led initiatives increased participation in monitoring public procurement but they have also helped get their voices heard by local authorities and key decision-makers.
In East Java’s Jember Regency, a group of young people influenced local authorities to change their policies to include more women, youth and vulnerable groups in local decision-making. This, in practice, will improve the participation of these groups in overseeing public contracting.
In 2021, after Cyclone Seroja hit the Kupang Regency, a province close to Timor-Leste, the youth group – with support from Transparency International Indonesia – stepped in to address residents' concerns regarding social assistance. They monitored the emergency procurement process to ensure aid reached those in need. Thanks to their efforts, the local authorities committed to repairing houses damaged by the cyclone, providing much-needed relief for the affected communities.
Today, the youth networks supported by Transparency International Indonesia have gained recognition from public officials and fellow citizens. In the Aceh Province, they spearheaded the signing of an official agreement to enhance the quality of public services in education. They also oversaw the judicial process of a corruption case involving the procurement of school sinks, which cost the state more than 7.2 billion rupiahs (around US$460,000).
At the national level, these groups joined forces to ensure that the long-awaited “Bill on Public Procurement” will include values of transparency, participation, accountability and anti-corruption – and they have gotten more than 25 civil society organisations to rally behind them.
As young people take the lead in anti-corruption efforts, Indonesia gets closer to a future where help reaches those in need, corruption is reduced and citizens participate in public decisions.
Since 2020, more than 750 networks of youth groups, women groups, student organisations and journalists from 20 cities and districts in Aceh, Jember and Kupang have advocated for transparent public budgets and audited procurement processes. Through the Transparency International IPP STRONGG program, we have advanced projects in education, livestock, trade, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME), infrastructure and health. This involved audits, scrutiny, consultations and follow-ups in stakeholder forums.
The Transparency International Indo-Pacific Partnership for Strong, Transparent, Responsive & Open Networks for Good Governance (TI IPP STRONGG) 2020–2023 aims to contribute to reduced corruption in the Indo-Pacific region by empowering a strong and independent civil society voice and network that can mobilise action in support of increased accountability of public and private institutions nationally and regionally. The project supports our chapters and partners based in the region to engage citizens, including women, youth, and vulnerable groups, as well as representatives from public institutions, private sector entities and civil society organisations in anti-corruption initiatives.
In this collection of stories, we explore how Transparency International chapters and partners in the Solomon Islands, Cambodia and Fiji are creating change through youth-led initiatives.