Contracts, Data and Investigations – COVID-19: Edition 2020-10-23

This week’s content: Europe’s COVID-19 spending unmasked, mobile hospitals in Honduras, vaccines in Mexico, and misspending in South Africa

This newsletter gathers stories covering the use and abuse of government contracts during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. We’d really be happy about a like, and let us know about your stories and content. We, Sophie and Georg, would love to hear about them.


COVID-19 spending in Europe unmasked: A new investigation by OCCRP and 37 partners analyzed 37,000 tenders and contracts to reveal how countries have spent €20.8 billion dollars. The investigation finds notable data black holes in Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland and huge variations in pricing for protective equipment. However, there are also countries that are doing better on disclosure, including open contracting implementers Lithuania and Portugal. Get the data (Github), and access the full spending tracker, unit prices data, largest contracts, and biggest suppliers.   

Check out some of the country stories already published from Profil in Austria, De Tijd in Belgium, Reporter in Luxembourg, Follow the Money in the Netherlands, and Público in Portugal.

In the UK, more contracts have been brought to light, but that doesn’t mean they’re very illuminating. This £168.5m contract with pest control specialist Pestfix for three different types of face masks is one of the contracts the government published. In total, more than £10 billion in COVID-19 related contracts are under scrutiny. Most were awarded without competition, writes Gill Plimmer at the Financial Times.

Check out the live updated databases of COVID-19 contracts published by the Spend Network on UK consultancy contracts and medical equipment, as well as by Tussell

From face masks to sliced bread and sporks (yes, a combination of a spoon and a fork): In the US, ProPublica’s Ash Ngu and Jodi Cohen, and Jennifer Smith Richards at Chicago Tribune, investigated how the state of Illinois has spent $1.6 billion in response to COVID-19

Plans ≠ reality. Honduras planned to build seven mobile hospitals to respond to the pandemic. But an investigation by El Pulso’s Joan Suazo, El Pulso, and OCCRP’s Daniela Castro tells the story of what turned out to be a $47 million disaster. It took six months for two barely functioning hospitals to arrive.   

South Africa’s Special Investigations Unit is now investigating $636 million for corruption, more than double the amount previously announced, writes Reuters.  

Procurement has gone off the rails in Nigeria too. The Premium Times’ Taiwo-Hassan Adebayo reveals how a non-existent company was awarded a $50 million railway contract. At least, money has been assigned to develop a new e-procurement platform to increase efficiency and integrity in the process. 

Access to medicines: El País’ David Marcial Perez investigates Mexico’s worrying lack of critical vaccines, including for tuberculosis, after the implementation of a new purchasing and distribution system that was developed to tackle that exact problem.   


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 Thanks for reading.

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