Contracts, Data and Investigations: Edition 2021-04-30

This week: South Africa turns to the private sector, why the US can’t donate its vaccine surplus, the French mask production task force, and a new open data tender portal from Kazakhstan

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. 


Following up on last week’s newsletter, the European Commission began legal proceedings against AstraZeneca for massively under-delivering vaccines. Politico EU’s Jillian Deutsch also published a report that finds that the Belgian government was warned – by consultancy firm Deloitte no less – about what could happen if the vaccine producer did not keep to the delivery schedule. 

Bloomberg’s Felix Njini reports that South Africa has turned to the private sector to import and deliver vaccines. Government-backed vaccine manufacturer Biovac is one of five companies selected, but details such as the contract values are not disclosed.

While the US government has announced the delivery of supplies worth more than $100 million including oxygen and essential supplies to India, Vanity Fair’s Katherine Eban finds that its America First–style contracts with vaccine manufacturers don’t allow for sharing doses with the rest of the world. Agreements with Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Janssen state: “The Government may not use, or authorize the use of, any products or materials provided under this Project Agreement, unless such use occurs in the United States”.

An in-depth investigation by India Spend’s Anoo Bhuyan finds that adding dedicated facilities and oxygen-supported beds to treat severe COVID-19 cases slowed after the first wave, leaving India woefully unprepared for the current crisis.

Mexico’s PODER has shared details about the country’s agreement with the COVAX facility to purchase 50 million doses at up to $160m. 

No newsletter without updates from the UK: Last week, more details on the workings of the controversial VIP fast-track lane emerged in court, including civil servants who flagged that the VIPs were inhibiting the efficient buying of PPE, as highlighted in Good Law Project’s thread of the proceedings. 

And GQ’s Jonathan Heaf shares with us the inside story of the Miami jewelry designer who would pivot his business and win 6 PPE contracts worth £271 million and the lawyer Jolyon Maugham and founder of the Good Law Project who’s been taking the UK government to court over its emergency procurement. 

In Germany, the tracking app purchased at a cumulative $20m under extreme urgency using emergency procurement is not (yet) being used by health agencies, finds Netzpolitik’s Chris Köver.

In Malawi, a government audit finds that $1m was spent irregularly or is unaccounted for in the country’s COVID-19 response, more than half on irregular procurement processes, writes Devex’ Madalitso Wills Kateta. In one case it took the health ministry 170 days to pay for equipment, including face masks, gowns, and sanitizer.

France Info’s Marion Mercier and Madjid Khiat provide an update on what happened to France’s big plans to reach mask independence. While companies have been able to ramp up production, the raw materials still need to be imported, and national companies struggle to provide competitive pricing as long as the lowest – and not the best – price wins.

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The new platform OpenTender.kz by NGO Progress provides insights into Kazakhstan public procurement to help journalists, analysts, and civil society track corruption risks and identify suspicious purchases. Journalists that find a particularly interesting purchase can win more powerful analytics tools. 


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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