Contracts, Data and Investigations: Edition 2021-04-23

This week: Vaccine contracts in South Africa and Europe, UK’s pandemic contracts under the spotlight (again), an open tender platform in Indonesia

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. 


In South Africa, Pfizer backs down on some of its unreasonable demands to put up sovereign assets guaranteeing an indemnity against potential civil claims over adverse effects of the vaccine, report TBIJ’s Madlen Davies and Rosa Furneaux in Mail & Guardian. In a briefing letter by the health minister, the pressure exerted by Pfizer becomes clear: “As the government, we found ourselves in a precarious position of having to choose between saving our citizens’ lives and risking putting the country’s assets into private companies’ hands.” Governments should not have to choose. Read the letter in full.

In the latest chapter of the row between the European Union and AstraZeneca, the EU is considering preparing a legal case against the vaccine producer for massively under-delivering vaccines, report Jillian Deutsch and Jacopo Barigazzi for Politico EU. However, a lawsuit would likely not guarantee more doses and would make contract negotiations focus even more on negotiating risks and indemnities, rather than an open and collaborative approach to delivering vaccines to end the pandemic.

The UK’s pandemic contracts are under the spotlight (again). Transparency International UK’s report Track and Trace finds a bias towards politically connected companies in the UK’s pandemic-related procurement, writes The Guardian’s David Pegg. Analyzing more than 1000 COVID-19 contracts, the report identified 73 worth more than £3.7bn that raised one or more red flags for possible corruption. Kate Whannel’s story for the BBC highlighting the health minister’s links to an NHS contractor is just the latest example. 

For details and download of the UK’s emergency contract data, access our COVID-19 contract tracker.

For Costa Rica’s La Nación, Diego Bosque analyzes emergency contracts for ventilators and finds deliveries that were up to 5 months delayed. Of 325 ventilators purchased, an internal audit identified issues in 71%. 

Fees by German parliamentarians for brokering mask deals have been even higher than expected, with €11.5m reaching double the previously known value, report Petra Blum und Markus Grill for WDR/NDR and Klaus Ott for Sueddeutsche Zeitung.  


Collecting 10 years of data from Indonesian public tenders, Indonesia Corruption Watch recently updated its Opentender.net platform with new data on e-purchasing, COVID-19 emergency purchases, and public works, and expanded its indicators to track corruption risks. The data is available in the Open Contracting Data Standard format.


If you are reading us from Moldova, Kazakhstan, or Kyrgyzstan, we’ve got a challenge for you: We want your best ideas for using open data in public procurement to build tools that help accelerate change. Apply to our latest innovation challenge by 15 May.


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.

Did a friend forward you this email? Click here to subscribe