Stories about corruption in public procurement are so common that they have become part of the daily news (and, sadly, a part that tends to receive less and less attention due to routine and tiredness from repetition). However, when one looks at the aggregate data, an immediate need for reaction becomes evident.
As the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs has just emphasised "The Commission's best estimate is that 120 billion euros are lost each year to corruption in the 27 Member States of the EU. That is the equivalent of the whole EU-budget. In public procurement, studies suggest that up to 20- 25% of the public contracts’ value may be lost to corruption."
Given that public procurement represents around 20% of the GDP in the European Union, a loss of 20% of its value due to corrupt practices of all sorts means that corruption in public procurement costs around 4% of the EU GDP.
If we add the fact that, sometimes, corruption is coupled with collusion (or bid rigging), which can generate an increase in prices of approximately 20% (with instances of around 40%), the numbers may be easily brought up to losses due to illegal and indecent behavior representing 40% to 50% of its value--i.e. around 8-10% of GDP.
The power of these facts seems unbeatable and we should all have it now clear in our minds that only decency can save us from the economic crisis.
However we want to run the numbers or reduce them to be conservative in our claims, even a reduction of 50% of the perceived level of corruption would not only avoid most of the cuts being imposed on the budgets for the provision of public services, but it would also allow for a relaxation of tax pressure on individuals and companies, and to provide effective economic incentives to entrepreneurship and innovation.
Even in clearer terms: addressing the issue of corruption and collusion in procurement would single-handedly bring the EU from recession/depression into economic growth. In this regard, the initiative of the European Commission to move from rhetoric to results in the fight against corruption (in public procurement) in the EU must be echoed, voiced and supported.
This is something we intend to do at workshops B5 and B6 of the Global Revolution VI Conference next June in Nottingham. Suggestions and active participation is encouraged and definitely more than welcome!