Curbing corruption in public procurement

Filed under - Public procurement

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What’s at stake?

Every year huge sums of taxpayers’ money are spent by governments on goods and services. From building airports and stadiums to buying computers for schools and medicines for hospitals, these projects are high value, complex and important.

Procurement of goods, works and other services by public bodies alone amounts to between 15 and 30 per cent of gross domestic product on average; in some countries even more. 

With so much money changing hands, few government activities create greater temptations or offer more opportunities for corruption.

From a public contract’s overall value, on average 10 to 25 per cent may disappear into the pockets of the corrupt. The European Commission estimates that €120 billion (about US$163 billion) is lost each year to corruption in its member states – almost the entire annual budget of the European Union.

But corruption in public procurement doesn’t just mean citizens’ money wasted. It means that the public’s needs are not fairly and properly considered when projects are designed and implemented; it undermines the quality of works and services, which in turn can damage the environment and even cost lives.

What we’re doing about it

When public contracting is participatory and transparent, key stakeholders, including civil society and citizens, are better able to monitor the procurement process. Effective monitoring plays an important role in preventing corruption and helping ensure that corrupt conduct is exposed and properly sanctioned.

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Participants at a public procurement workshop
run by Transparency International Hungary

Commitments to adhere to high standards of integrity by bidders and government authorities ensure a level playing field for those involved in the procurement process by reassuring key actors that their counterparts will abstain from malpractice and apply measures to reduce corruption risk.

We monitor specific procurement processes, identify risks and advocate for reforms, based on the core principles of transparency, integrity and accountability.

We develop and apply innovative approaches, working with key stakeholders, to ensure the high standards needed to stop corruption are met. We support civil society and citizens in monitoring the procurement process, and encourage, where possible, their active participation in it.

Who’s involved

As governments in all countries and at all levels procure services to carry out their work, Transparency International chapters around the world have long been involved in monitoring procurement and pushing for improved practice. We frequently work with external partners and stakeholders to ensure that public contracting serves the public good.

Our approach

We use a variety of approaches in our work around public procurement. These include:

Promoting transparency, integrity and accountability in public procurement

Global principles and minimum standards of transparency, integrity and accountability must be place to ensure public procurement is corruption free. Transparency International identifies the principles, standards and key steps needed to ensure a clean contracting process, and collects good practice examples of chapters’ work in this area.

This work closely aligns with the Open Contracting Partnership (OCP), of which Transparency International is a founding and active member. The OCP brings together key stakeholders, including governments, civil society, private business and academics, to promote global principles of disclosure and participation in public contracting.

The OCP pushes for data standards, engages in global advocacy activities and conducts research. In addition it supports the wider Open Contracting Community, provides implementation support and tools for those working to ensure more open public contracting, and demonstrates how open contracting works at the national level.

Integrity Pacts

The Integrity Pact brings together governments, businesses and civil society to fight corruption in public contracting and by doing so, help ensure value for money and quality for the public. At its heart is an agreement between a government or government agency and all bidders for a public sector contract, which sets out rights and obligations to the effect that neither party will engage in corrupt conduct.

To ensure that parties fully respect these commitments, a civil society group (often a Transparency International chapter) facilitates independent monitoring of the pact’s implementation, which includes a complaints mechanism. The pact is a legally binding contract, breaches of which trigger serious sanctions for the offending party.

Integrity pacts have been applied in more than 15 countries, in over 300 contracts across different sectors, including large scale public works projects, such as international airports and dam constructions.

Find out more about Integrity Pacts:

TI-USA Civil Society Procurement Monitoring Tool (CSPM)

Developed by Transparency International USA, the CSPM supports civil society organisations in their efforts to recognise the ‘red-flags’ of corruption risks in public procurement. By monitoring individual procurements, civil society provides incentives for the key stakeholders to act with integrity and enables civil society to hold them to account for their decisions and conduct. Monitoring helps parties identify and manage corruption risks, and civil society can use the experiences and information collected through monitoring to shape recommendations for reform.

Learn more about the approach:

  • CSPM tool – Transparency International USA


Curbing corruption in public procurement: a practical guide

This guide is a concise introduction for government officials and civil society to the problem and risks of corruption in public procurement. It outlines key principles and minimum standards, as well as good practice guidelines, which when respected can help curb corruption in the procurement process and minimise its harmful effects.

Integrity pacts in public procurement: an implementation guide

This manual is a hands-on practical guide to familiarise government officials in charge of procurement processes with the Integrity Pact and to provide them with tools and ideas for its application


Contact us

José María Marín, Head of Public Sector Integrity Programme (Acting)

Country / Territory - International   
Region - Global   
Language(s) - English   
Topic - Education   |   Health   |   Politics and government   |   Private sector   |   Public procurement   |   Public services   

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