Contracts, Data and Investigations: Edition 2021-05-21

This week: Dutch auction in reverse, Kenya deals, updates on UK’s ongoing trial into VIP lanes, WHO 2020 procurement report, and social housing in Venezuela

This newsletter gathers stories covering the use and abuse of government contracts during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Share your stories and investigations with us. We’d love to read and feature them. And we’d appreciate a like if you enjoyed the read. 

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Did Kenya make a loan deal last year with foreign firms to build health facilities to curb COVID-19? A lack of transparency in government contracts means Kenyans still don’t know, writes Quartz’s Carlos Mureithi. But an open contracting system would allow the public to track information on procurement during the pandemic, says TI Kenya’s executive director. TI Kenya also published an analysis of the country’s 2020 COVID-19 contracts. 

In the Netherlands, De Volkskrant’s Frank Hendrickx and Tom Kreling reveal that the health ministry paid at least €13m more on a €100.8m deal for face masks by purchasing them from a newly established commercial firm instead of accepting the initial offer from a non-profit owned by the same entrepreneur. The country’s audit office criticized the health ministry for being unable to account for €5bn of spending in 2020, including missing receipts for respirators and unconfirmed deliveries of corona tests. 

Pakistan’s government has delayed the publication of an audit report on COVID-19 spending after the auditors uncovered “serious irregularities in expenditures”, reports Shahbaz Rana for the Express Tribune. The deferral puts Pakistan in violation of its loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

Amid widespread food shortages, the nephew of Turkmenistan’s president won a US$25.7m contract to import staples like chicken, sugar and cooking oil, according to the OCCRP’s Ruslan Myatiev and Bayram Shikhmuradov. The lucrative deal is the first documented evidence of how familial connections helped Hajymyrat Rejepov build his fortune. 

Nicaragua bought over a million doses of drugs that have not proved effective for treating the coronavirus, finds an investigation by Confidencial’s Keyling T. Romero and Cinthya Tórrez. 

The US plans to increase vaccine exports and Latin America may be the first to benefit, according to an exclusive by Reuters’ Carl O’Donnell and Jeff Mason, who note that the country’s vaccine diplomacy efforts prioritize nations in their own hemisphere.

‘VERY URGENT VIP ESCALATION’: The Good Law Project is suing the government, accusing it of breaching its duties of transparency in awarding nine contracts worth £700m to the hedge fund Ayanda Capital, pest controllers Pestfix, and confectionary firm Clandeboye. As David Conn reports in the Guardian from the trial, UK ministers apparently “lobbied” civil servants to fast-track procurement offers from firms with political connections. It also appears the government was told some PPE gowns were secured through bribes, writes the Evening Standard’s Tristan Kirk.  

The WHO has published its 2020 procurement report. Compared to the average from previous years, the COVID-19 response almost doubled the institution’s procurement spending to a total of US$1.7bn. By far the largest COVID-19-related procurement category was protective equipment, making up US$157m (9% of total spend). Most of the money went to companies based in China. A full list is available on page 16 in Annex 1. The PDF report is available here, but we would have loved a nice little CSV file to dig through the data ourselves.


El Pitazo and CONNECTAS investigate Venezuela’s $95bn spend on social housing between 2011 and 2016. They were unable to verify the number of houses and apartments, as the official number of 3.5m units includes incomplete or non-existent structures. The team only managed to identify and document 5% of the units the government claims it built. Watch the video of the investigation.


For our recommendations, resources and tools, check our COVID-19 resource page. This newsletter has been put together by the Open Contracting Partnership. Comments? Suggestions? Got a story you’ve written to share? Write to Georg at gneumann@open-contracting.org. Thanks for reading.

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