The Neris River runs through the centre of Vilnius, Lithuania's capital, and its banks are one of the most beloved public spaces in the city. Now the Vilnius City Municipality plans to revitalise the riverside area with new paths and cycle lanes, and amenities that both locals and tourists can enjoy.
The total budget for the project is €10.5 million. To make sure that all this money is spent in the best interests of the people of Vilnius, the municipal authorities have committed to work with Transparency International Lithuania to open up the process to public scrutiny. Part of this commitment includes signing what we call an Integrity Pact between the city and Transparency International Lithuania.
The monitoring of the Neris Riverside development is part of a wider initiative to promote clean contracting across Europe, coordinated by Transparency International and supported by the European Union. We're monitoring 17 major public contracts in 11 EU countries. Together, these contracts are worth nearly €1 billion.
Civil society will monitor these contracts in order to make the public procurement process understandable to ordinary citizens and to hold elected officials to account. By telling a complex public procurement story in a transparent and meaningful way we have a much better chance of keeping corruption out of the picture and of ensuring that these big projects serve the public interest.
- A clean contract is one that is designed and implemented to the highest possible standards of transparency, accountability and efficiency, according to the public interest.
- An Integrity Pact is a signed document that legally commits governments and bidders to comply with anti-corruption best practices. Transparency International first developed the Integrity Pact in the 1990s and more than 300 have been used around the world in 15 different countries since then.
Why are clean contracts important?
Last year the Lithuanian government spent over €4 billion on public contracts – that’s over 40 per cent of the Lithuania’s 2016 national budget. However, as the Public Procurement Office only has the capacity to thoroughly evaluate around 3.4 per cent of high-value procurement procedures, space for corruption in the public procurement process remains huge.
According to the Lithuanian Map of Corruption 2016 study carried out last year by the Special Investigation Service, Lithuania’s anti-corruption law enforcement institution, corruption is seen as one of the top problems faced by Lithuanian society. Bribery and nepotism remain major corruption issues. And it is not just bad for citizens: in 2012, 70 per cent of bidders surveyed claimed to have decided at least once not to participate in a tender because they believed the process was rigged.
This is an EU-wide problem. Corruption in public procurement is estimated to cost EU taxpayers €5 billion per year (the EU spends around 14 per cent of its GDP on public procurement). This is money that could be used to build or refurbish hospitals and schools or make dangerous roads safer.
When corruption gets in the way of a government’s ability to provide vital public services to its citizens, money is not the only thing at stake – the public’s trust in their government is too. The rise of contemporary populism is a symptom of an increasing number of people who think government doesn’t work for them, but only for a corrupt few. If we want to talk about making government work for its citizens, public procurement is a good place to start.
Images: Copyright, Vilnius City Municipality
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