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Integrity pact – A global standard for safeguarding strategic public investments

This project is a continuation of work

This project is a continuation of work from the Integrity Pacts – Civil Control Mechanism for Safeguarding EU Funds project which was completed in 2022.

Addressing corruption and mismanagement in public contracting is especially relevant today. As governments worldwide spend vast amounts of money to mitigate the economic and social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, opportunities for unscrupulous actors to line their own pockets are rife. Effective public monitoring, increased transparency, and greater civil society involvement in public procurement projects are crucial to mitigate such risks. The integrity pact, developed by Transparency International in the 1990s, is one of the best tools to do just that.

What is an integrity pact?

An integrity pact is a collaborative mechanism in which public contracting authorities and bidders sign a public agreement committing to refrain from corruption and enhance transparency and accountability in a public contracting project. As part of the agreement, an independent civil society organisation monitors compliance with applicable laws and regulations, provides recommendations to mitigate corruption risks and foster good governance, and informs the public throughout the whole process.

Integrity Pacts

The integrity pact is a flexible and context-sensitive tool that can be adapted to different political, economic, and institutional backgrounds, as its adoption is based on understanding the characteristics of a specific public contracting market. It has been implemented in more than 30 countries worldwide in the past two decades and benefited hundreds of public contracting projects across a wide range of sectors. We've observed improved procurement procedures and related anti-corruption measures. We have also noted greater transparency and increased involvement by affected communities in projects crucial to national development policies, such as green investments.

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The benefits of integrity pacts are now well recognised. Still, in most countries, governments are yet to make them a core feature of their public contracting policies and practices. The main reason lies, partly, in the ebbs and flows of political will among policymakers. However, practitioners have also pointed out that its resource-intensive implementation model, while necessary to ensure effective civic monitoring, has made it less appealing for regular use compared to other solutions for public procurement integrity, such as digital tools based on open contracting data.

For this to change, advocates and practitioners in government, civil society and business must have access to precise guidance and references on how to implement the integrity pact in a more targeted and purposeful manner. This also includes considering its role in the functioning of public procurement systems and how it interacts with other tools for public contracting integrity.

What we are doing

Through research, coalition-building, and advocacy, we're working on updating the integrity pact to better reflect the evolution of public contracting practices in the 21st century and calling for its consistent application on public investments of strategic relevance for countries' national development policies. We have a clear focus on healthcare and critical infrastructure projects.

Based on existing information and results of a recent global survey, we are analysing the main trends, variations, and practices in implementing the integrity pact worldwide. We are gathering this information in a publicly available digital compendium, allowing practitioners in civil society, government, business, and academia to explore the application of the tool across different regions, countries, and sectors and obtain valuable information and references about its added value.

Building on our recent work to pilot the integrity pact in European Union-funded projects, we're developing an innovative model for the integrity pact in collaboration with practitioners in our network of national chapters and partner organisations. Considering technological innovations and best practices in public funds' protection, we're upgrading the tool to best protect strategic public investments. We will promote the renewed integrity pact model through coordinated advocacy actions at the global and national levels, making a case for greater civil society monitoring, citizen engagement and business integrity in critical public contracting projects.

Collective action is a collaborative and sustained process of cooperation among stakeholders from different sectors to solve relevant problems. This is at the heart of the integrity pact approach, and we aim to foster it even further. Through public events, training, and knowledge exchange activities, we will build a global coalition of civil society, government, and business representatives committed to using the tool to fight corruption and foster good governance in public contracting.