Contracts, Data and Investigations: Edition 2021-04-16

One year of COVID-19 contracts in Argentina, Bolivia and Ukraine, still no competition in the UK, new vaccine contracts made public in Mexico, & contract costs for rapid testing in the Netherlands

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. 


More analysis of 12 months of emergency contracts comes from Ukraine. Yaroslav Pylypenko of Transparency International Ukraine analyzes 148,500 pandemic-related tenders for a total amount of UAH 30.9 billion. Most purchases happened in December and the list of goods, works, and services that could be purchased under emergency procedures was amended 14 times – and almost always expanded.

Argentina: An in-depth investigation into the emergency contracts carried out by provinces in Argentina emphasizes the lack of data for many citizens and finds that 92% were direct awards. One notable contract included ambulances that were three times more expensive in Buenos Aires Province compared to three other provinces, while the specifications remained largely the same. The investigation is the first one carried out by El Ruido, a new network of Argentinean journalists. All the documentation is available here.

Mexico’s access to information agency has published (redacted) contracts of the country’s vaccine contracts with AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Chinese Cansino. PODER’s Eduard Martín-Borregón has the details

Competitive tendering rules revoked at the start of the pandemic in the UK (and across the world) should be reinstated. Gill Plimmer’s article in the Financial Times highlights that £19bn of UK’s Covid-related contracts continue to be awarded without competition. 

Just 6 percent of the companies that received Covid-related contracts lobbied the federal government in the US in 2020, but they received more than half of the money that was awarded to combat the pandemic, $19.4 billion, according to a report released by Public Citizen and the Center for Responsive Politics.

Bolivia’s pandemic management continues under scrutiny. An investigation by Sergio Mendoza, Leny Chuquimia, and Liliana Carrillo for Página Siete, La Nube, and CONNECTAS highlights the secrecy, overpricing, and abuse of emergency contracts. The investigation includes a notorious case of 500 overpriced ventilators purchased through middlemen that failed to meet the needs of hospitals.  

How the Dutch government is spending millions of euros on its rapid testing strategy for events is ‘extremely unusual, not transparent and unsupervised,’ finds an investigation by Eelke van Ark, Jan-Hein Strop, and Stefan Vermeulen for Follow the Money. The project is managed through a new foundation, Open Nederland, that received a no-bid contract for over €925m without any public oversight on the foundation’s spending. 

Netzpolitik’s Chris Köver and Alexander Fanta find that Germany’s Länder have spent more than €20m on the digital contact tracing app Luca, much of it without open competition leading to large differences in costs. Bavaria is paying €5.5m for a one-year license, while Brandenburg is paying €440k.


Our COVID-19 Contract Explorer collects and analyzes pandemic-related contracts from nine countries and now includes data from Colombia and Paraguay


Did countries keep the receipts? The IMF provided over US$100 billion of emergency support using its Rapid Credit Facility and encouraged countries to make voluntary commitments to good governance of emergency support resources, including two policy areas critical to making sure the money was well spent: procurement and beneficial ownership transparency. Together with Open Ownership, we worked with Oxford Insights to understand the impact of these commitments in 11 countries (Afghanistan, Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras, Kyrgyz Republic, Malawi, Moldova, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda). Read the blog by Kristen Robinson and get the full summary report.


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