Launch of new global campaign to stop secret government contracting

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Madrid, Thursday 27 February 2014 – by Access Info Europe

Today sees the launch of a new global campaign, Stop Secret Contracts, calling on world leaders to end secrecy in public contracting. The campaign is coordinated by the Open Knowledge Foundation, and signed by Access Info Europe along with signatories including Global Witness, Integrity Action, the International Budget Partnership, the Sunlight Foundation and Transparency International.

The need for openness and transparency in contracting is an issue which has gathered increasing momentum in recent years. The global value of government contracts is estimated at $9.5 trillion [1], but even in countries with strong government transparency laws the contracting process is often opaque and unaccountable. In both Africa and the EU, estimates suggest that around $150 billion is lost annually to corruption and mismanagement [2].

The campaign will focus on securing commitments and action from government leaders around the world to increasing openness and transparency in their contracts. The campaign has support from organisations across the world, from the Hungary to Nepal to South Sudan, and will be targeting governments at both national and international levels to secure reforms.

Rufus Pollock, Founder of the Open Knowledge Foundation said, “Every year, millions of dollars of public money are lost to fraud, corruption, and payments to contractors that don’t deliver. Openness of key contracting information is essential to allow us to hold governments to account, and ensure that public money is used for public good.”

From Access Info’s perspective, since much corruption and nepotism occurs not at the moment of contracting but in the conception of how public money will be spent on public procurement, there is a need for precisely defined standards on at least the minimum information which governments should proactively disclose about the public procurement process. It is also essential that citizens can have access to and participate in processes of evaluation of spending of public funds to ensure that budget priorities are in line with the public interest. You can read more about procurement transparency in the Open Government Standards.

Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe, “Openness in public procurement from conception through contracting to evaluation is essential to fight against corruption and ensure that there is equality of opportunity for business and oversight by civil society.”

Gavin Hayman, Executive Director of Global Witness, said, “One set of secret deals signed by the DRC government with obscure companies may have cost that state twice its annual education and health budget. Secrecy in how contracts are handed out and what they say robs citizens of the ability to know who got the contract, how they won and whether it was a good deal for their country.”

Rueben Lifuka, board member of Transparency International, said, “Secret contracts are never about public interest and only serve as conduits to satisfy the selfish interests of a few. Giving relevant information about public contracts to government entities, parliaments and civil society contributes to a more stable investment environment, and allows good governance and the rule of law to prevail.”

Individuals who support the aims of the campaign are invited to sign the petition at StopSecretContracts.org. Organisations who would like to give their support can get in touch with the Open Knowledge Foundation on contact@stopsecretcontracts.org.

For more information, please contact:

Theodora Middleton, Open Knowledge Foundation
theodora.middleton@okfn.org

Helen Darbishire, Access Info Europe
helen@access-info.org

[1] Source: Open Contracting Partnership

[2] Sources: EU – Reuters/European Commission; Africa – the OECD’s CleanGovBiz.

Notes for editors
» The organisational supporters of the campaign are Global Witness, Integrity Action, International Budget Partnership, Open Contracting Partnership, Publish What You Fund, Sunlight Foundation, Transparency International, World Wide Web Foundation, African Media Initiative, African Network of Centres for Investigative Reporting, Code for Africa, Commission Diocesaine Justice et Paix (DRC), Fondation Chirezi (DRC), Institute for Research and Democratic Development (Liberia), National Taxpayers Association (Kenya), Public Private Development Centre (Nigeria), Network Movement for Justice and Development (Sierra Leone), Social Justice in the Cote d’Ivoire, Society for Civic Development (South Sudan), Campaign for Human Rights and Social Transformation (Nepal), Luta Hamutuk(Timor Leste), Access Info Europe, K-Monitor (Hungary), Fair Play Alliance (Slovakia), Campaign for Freedom of Information (UK), Involve (UK), We Own It (UK), Insan Leilek (Kyrgyzstan), Integrity Watch Afghanistan, and Teacher Creativity Centre (Palestine).
» The Stop Secret Contracts campaign draws on the work of the Open Contracting Partnership, in particular the Open Contracting Global Principles:http://www.open-contracting.org/global_principles

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