Corruption in Public Procurement: What happens after the contract is awarded?

A lot of research about corruption in public procurement builds on the availability of data about the contracting process. But what happens after the contract is awarded? Irasema Guzmán, one of the Centre’s PhD researchers, argues that corruption in this phase has unique power dynamics, which she will explore in her work on Mexico

Governments spend large amounts of money in building roads, implementing social programmes, and acquiring equipment for hospitals as part of their responsibilities to deliver public goods, works and services. According to the World Economic Forum (2018), countries around the world spend an estimated 15% of global GDP on public procurement – governments contract firms to supply their needs. However, procurement is also a risky area for corruption, reflecting the extensive public budget involved and the potential for interactions between private and public actors’ interests to distort the original aims.

We know that there are many ways to corrupt the procurement process in order to benefit specific actors via rent-seeking. Research has stressed how actors may take discretionary decisions over procurement to manipulate the process (from planning to tender, award and implementation phases). Since corruption is very difficult to observe and measure, academic efforts also identify corruption risks in all the procurement phases as a proxy to objectively measure corruption, providing a toolkit of indicators (red flags) of possible corruption patterns.

Although there has been great progress in research on corruption and anti-corruption, some gaps remain. We know very little about corruption schemes and risks during the monitoring of a contract and the delivery of the goods, works and services. Why is it important to analyse this last phase?

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