Contracts, Data and Investigations – COVID-19: Edition 2020-10-09

This week’s content: Return of a War Dog, mysterious tenders in Albania, a public dashboard in South Africa, consultancy day-rates in the UK, food supplements contracts in Bolivia, Angola’s riches

This newsletter gathers stories covering the use and abuse of government contracts during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Let us know about your stories and content. We, Sophie and Georg, would love to hear about them.


If there’s one thing we have learned from this crisis, it’s that secrecy is never a good idea. 

In Albania, concerns have been raised over possible misuse of public funds after the government failed to release the details of tenders for COVID-19 supplies worth hundreds of thousands of euros, writes Fjori Sinoruka for BIRN.

South Africa’s National Treasury has launched an interactive public dashboard offering more detailed data than previously disclosed on contracts awarded to curb the virus, writes Nomahlubi Jordaan for Times Live. The records are there, now timely and structured open data would provide more opportunities to dig deeper.  

He inspired War Dogs, a fascinating film on getting rich on government defense deals, now the former arms dealer is one of dozens of ‘unexpected and inexperienced’ suppliers reportedly linked to contracts for disposable gowns in the US worth $1 billion, according to an investigation by David Gelles and Rachel Abrams for The New York Times.

UK’s Test and Trace program continues to hit the headlines with reports that the number of people employed by consultancy firm Deloitte to work on the scheme is equivalent to the size of a small government department. About 1,000 consultants earn up to £2,360 per day, finds Ed Conway for Sky News. In other consultancy contracts, The Guardian’s Rajeev Syal reports that spending on consultancy fees for Brexit preparations with eight firms has risen by 45% to more than £450m in three years. Deloitte was the biggest winner. 

This might be the first COVID-19 related contract in the UK that has ended in an out-of-court settlement. The government will pay £2 million to settle a dispute over an IT contract for virus testing apparently worth £1 million, reports Jonathan Josephs for the BBC.

As cases rise once again in Europe, countries are facing shortages of Remdesivir, a medicine shown to shorten hospital recovery time in severe cases of COVID-19, reports Reuters. The European Commission has signed a joint procurement framework contract with pharma company Gilead, the drug’s sole producer, for up to 500,000 treatment courses. An earlier contract by the Commission put each treatment at €2,000. 

In Bolivia, a nutritional supplements monopoly made millions in public contracts, reveals an investigation by Daniel Rivera, Mariana Torrez and Guadalupe Castillo for El País Bolivia and CONNECTAS. For a decade, one company was the only provider authorized to deliver US$90-million-worth of food supplements for babies and seniors.


In Angola, a multi-million dollar contract to renovate the country’s airports was awarded to firms owned by the president’s chief of staff and right-hand man, according to an investigation by André Carvalho Ramos from the Portuguese broadcaster TVI 24. The money was allegedly channeled through offshore accounts in Madeira and Panama to purchase luxury properties in Portugal. Angolans are rightfully angry. Check out 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 to share? Write to Sophie or Georg at media@open-contracting.org. Thanks for reading.