Given my personal view that transparency in procurement (in the EU) is excessive and potentially self-defeating (see here and here), I read it with some skepticism.
However, I have been glad to discover a section where the advocation of transparency is subjected to some counter-arguments. In my view, the most interesting ones are summarised as follows:
With reference to transparency as it affects public procurement, the increased knowledge associated with transparency may prove counterproductive. According to Jenny (2005) unmitigated transparency may breed anticompetitive practices, facilitate tacit collusion among the tenderers and thereby foment corruption. Under certain circumstances, the bureaucracy associated with the need to provide more information may indeed assist bribe givers to identify potentially corrupt officials (Bac, 2001). Bac (2001) argues that, this may facilitate corruption by enabling easy identification of people with whom “connection” may be established for the purpose of corrupt practices. In addition, knowledge acquired by potentially corruptible officials through transparency measures will enable them to learn the “ways and means” of perfecting and promoting the art of corruption.
Moreover, transparency for the sake of it is not a final-one-stop cure for the corruption in procurement syndrome. It must be supported by other corruption-reducing imperatives including assurance of effective competition and efficiency in managing public resources (Beth, 2005). Nowadays, as indicated by policy developments and experience in advanced countries spearheaded by the United States, the OECD and WTO, and reflected in “internationally shared norms”, effective competition is being maintained through the international trade liberalisation crusade (Anderson and Kovacic, 2009).In addition, sometimes unmitigated transparency may be at variance with other requirements of good governance. It is therefore important to establish an appropriate balance between transparency and other tenets of good governance by ensuring that information is released with due regard to established rules (Wittig, 2005). Thus absolute, unmitigated transparency may not be always desirable. The degree of transparency and openness should be adapted accordingly to suit the nature, status and value of recipient of information, the stage of the procurement cycle, the sensitivity of information, the size of the contract and the nature of the item to be procured. Therefore it becomes necessary to time the release of information to suit the nature, status and value of recipients (emphasis added).
Overall, the paper is interesting food for thought for anyone interested in the difficult balance between transparency and effective competition in public procurement.