Municipalities and Public Procurement

More than one third of the municipalities in Hungary – that is, 40% of them – hide what and how they purchased through public procurement. This way, control and publicity are excluded, even though we are talking about public data. Transparency International Hungary went after the question of why are these data not public. Is it only due to the negligence of the municipalities? Or is there something else behind?

The research focused on content-related and formal aspects as well. All these made up the Publicity Index, a tool which takes into consideration 5 content-related and 5 formal criteria, in a way that each of them gets either 0 or 1 point, depending on whether the municipality seems to be meeting the criterion in question. It is to be mentioned that the scope of the research did not make it possible to continuously monitor data, thus the information recorded is the result of snapshots. The Publicity Index, thus, shows to which extent municipalities meet the provisions concerning information related to public spending of the CVIII law of 2011 about public procurement.

Few are honest

Looking at the outcome of the research, it can be clearly concluded that the municipalities are not or not sufficiently fulfilling their obligation to disclose public data. That is, 40% of them do not share any data considered by the research on their website. And even when they do disclose something, they certainly avoid making a big fuss around it: the places where information on public procurement is shared are difficult to find, and the information itself is not searchable. Poorly visibility makes it difficult to control exactly to what extent municipalities meet their obligation to disclose public data. Moreover, infringement of the relevant parts of the Public Procurement Act is not sanctioned at all.

Municipalities were the most reluctant to publish information concerning the fulfillment of contracts made as part of public procurement procedures (in this respect municipalities reached an average of 0,1 points out of 10). Average performance was not much higher in making the contracts themselves public (0,2), and publication of yearly statistical summaries was also often missing (0,23).

Only 1% of the municipalities got the maximum of the points, which can be considered an alarmingly low proportion. Several big cities got 0 points – meaning that they did not disclose any information concerning public procurement – amongst these are Esztergom or Szolnok. The four best performing municipalities are Hajdúdorog, Pilisvörösvár, Szombathely and Tata.

Why is transparency important when it comes to public procurements?

First of all, because everybody has the right to know the basic facts about procurements that concern the population, since public procurement means spending public money. The second reason is tightly connected to the first one:  if public money is spent behind closed doors, the chance that some form of corruption will emerge is much higher. And if corruption occurs, citizens have all the reason to suspect that the municipality spends more money on one or another investment than what it actually costs. Thus, the question emerges: why do municipalities neglect an issue which should be of importance to them as well? That is, if they intend on letting citizens know that their money is spent properly and effectively, the best way is to disclose public data.

Disclosure does not only mean to make data physically available: it also entails making it easy to find and searchable on the website. Transparency International Hungary is convinced that the more effective disclosure of public data is, the lower the risk of corruption.

What is the aim of the research?

Transparency International Hungary intends on raising municipalities’ awareness to put more efforts into disclosing public procurement data in the future. To this end, the research seems to be a good starting point, as it can be repeated every year according to the same principles, thus revealing how many municipalities take their obligation seriously by informing us about how they spend public money, and how many, contrarily, make their decisions concerning citizens’ money behind closed doors.  With the research, the organization raises awareness among citizens as well, drawing their attention to the importance of civic control: those who spend our money should account for it to us.

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