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Public procurement

Photo: Ricardo Gomez Angel /

The problem

Trillions of dollars are spent each year buying goods and services for public projects. From schools and hospitals, to power plants and dams, this means big budgets and complex plans. It also means ideal opportunities for corruption.

Contracts to suppliers can be awarded without fair competition. This allows companies with political connections to triumph over their rivals. Or companies within the same industry can rig their bids, so each gets a piece of the pie. This increases the cost of services to the public. We’ve found that corruption can add as much as 50 per cent to a project’s costs.

But corruption in public procurement isn’t just about money. It also reduces the quality of work or services. And it can cost lives. People in many countries have paid a terrible personal price for collapsed buildings and counterfeit medicines. The end result? Our trust in our leaders is eroded.

The solution

All of us can help ensure taxpayers’ money is well spent. Governments must guarantee to provide good quality services, bought at a fair price. This means they need strong procurement systems. It’s up to us to make sure these are put in place.

What do these systems look like? Above all, they’re transparent. This means we can see what’s going on. Then we can hold governments, bidders and contractors accountable for their actions. Good procurement systems are also shaped by clear regulations that meet international standards. And they’re overseen by strong institutions that enforce those rules. They also provide access to information and effective complaints mechanisms. These let us report suspected corruption confidentially and without threat.

Specific measures can help us ensure honest procurement processes. We should push for commitments to honesty by bidders for a contract and the procuring government agency. This means promises from everyone involved not to take part in bribery, collusion or other corrupt practices. We can also demand an independent external monitor to ensure an agreement is not violated.

To promote honesty in procurement, we’ve combined these measures into an agreement called an Integrity Pact. Since 2001, these have helped protect over 300 bidding processes from corruption.


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Report cover with a map of the world, banknotes changing hands and a pen in chains.

Corruption Perceptions Index 2021

Publication •

The Corruption Perceptions Index scores 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, according to experts and business people.


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