Contracts, Data and Investigations: Edition 2021-03-26

This week: 1 year in emergency procurement: analysis from Costa Rica, Spain, Mexico, & a new tool providing insights into contracts from 8 countries

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. 


One year into the pandemic, we have yet to get a full picture of the scale of emergency procurement as much of the public contracts remain opaque. 

At Civio, Eva Belmonte led an investigation into all of Spain’s COVID-19 related procurement, including more than 16,000 contracts worth €6.5 billion in direct awards. Civio finds that more than half of the published contracts were posted late. The investigation also reveals prices for protective equipment and identifies those that sneaked in: taser guns, swimming pools, and even camels for the celebrations of a traditional parade. And you can search all contracts

For Costa Rica’s La Nación, Natasha Cambronero and Diego Bosque analyze the purchases amounting to more than ¢42 billion (US$70m) by the country’s Social Security Fund, which is in charge of most of the nation's public health sector and the response to the health crisis. A small group of 15 companies accounts for 62% of the contract value. 

Ecuador’s procurement agency has made open data available on all of its emergency procurement. Primicias analyzes US$332m in public contracts and provides a snapshot of what was bought

For Mexico, PODER and Serendipia provide analysis and access to the published data on the country’s emergency response on their ComprasCOVID platform.

In Kenya, The Star’s Julius Otieno reports on irregularities of US$4.4m in emergency procurement in Mandera county, in the Northeast of the country. Kenya’s health ministry announced that private hospitals would be allowed to import vaccines and offer them to their customers, risking further inequality in accessing health services, Reuter’s Nita Bhalla reports.

The Diplomat’s Andreyka Natalegawa and Camille Bismonte provide an overview of the status of vaccine procurement in Pacific Island nations, many of which will receive their doses through the COVAX facility. 

Afghanistan’s Pajhwok reports how provincial police sold assets such as cars and generators at throw-away prices, while in another province, a hospital solar power project went off the rails with exorbitant prices.

While Hungary touts to have made its vaccine contracts public, associates of the country’s prime minister have won public tenders for valuable EU projects, writes Sebastian Shehadi for New Statesman. One childhood friend has pocketed millions from these projects.


A new COVID-19 Contract Explorer: With public procurement in the spotlight, the lack of timely and open data about what governments are buying stands out. Stories featured in this newsletter highlighted the price gouging, mismanagement, and corruption that impacted the purchase of life-saving protective materials, rapid tests, and the delivery of the vaccine. Our COVID-19 Contract Explorer provides a new tool to track and analyze available emergency contracts from 8 countries: Kenya, Kyrgyz, Mexico, Moldova, the UK, Lithuania, Paraguay, and Ukraine. You can use our interactive dashboard to review key indicators or download the data for your own analysis. 

Developed by Open Contracting Partnership and the Transparency International Global Health programme in partnership with country partners, it is part of a project to offer information and recommendations on emergency procurement and equity. Get in touch to increase the coverage!


For our recommendations, resources and tools, check our COVID-19 resource page. Our friends at the GIJN have pulled together some tips and tricks for investigating public procurement. 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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