Preventing corruption in public procurement to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

Bangkok (Thailand), 12 July 2017
- Public procurement accounts for about 15- 20% of GDP in developing countries (World Bank, 2015) and about a third of national government budgets, making it the largest single area of government spending. The large volume of money at stake and the frequent and close interactions between the public and private sector, make public procurement highly vulnerable to corruption and a primary area of concern for the integrity of public administration. Up to 20- 25% of the procurement budget is drained through corruption globally (OECD, 2013).

Phil Matsheza, Governance and Peacebuilding Team Leader at UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub, explained that "the total amount lost by developing countries to corruption, bribery, theft and tax evasion each year, according to United Nations estimates, costs US $1.26 trillion. Funding interventions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals will require developing countries around US$2.5 trillion annually (UNCTAD, 2014). Enormous resources could be unlocked by mitigating waste and corruption in public procurement, not only contributing to better quality and distribution of services, but also enabling substantial government savings, resulting in increased domestic resources that can be invested in development programmes."

Jeremy Douglas, the Regional Representative of UNODC for Southeast and the Pacific, highlighted that "managing corruption risks in public procurement is one of the urgent priorities for this region to promote sustainable development. Corruption in public procurement constitutes a major challenge to the attraction of foreign direct investment, undermines market competition and impedes economic development."

Over fifty representatives from anti-corruption agencies, audit institutions and procurement agencies from South and Southeast Asia gathered in Bangkok from the 12th to the 14th of July 2017 to participate in the Regional Workshop on Corruption Risk Management in Procurement, jointly organized by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade from the Australian Government. In line with the Roadmap to fast track the implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption in Asia-Pacific, developed in early 2017, this workshop responds to the need of enhancing capacity of the countries in the region to identify corruption risks in public procurement and define ways to address them effectively.

The workshop provided concrete guidance on how to do mitigate risks, including the UNDP Guidebook on Tackling integrity risks in government contracts. An opportunity to unlock resources for sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific, based on the methodology successfully piloted in Thailand. Specific recommendations were formulated on how to identify fraud and corruption schemes in public procurement and how to develop practical, easy-to-implement mitigation strategies at every stage of the procurement process, from pre-tender to tender and post-tender. "This workshop gave participants some very simple tools that do not require much time or financial resources. Everyone can do this, so basically there are no more excuses not to do something about corruption risks in the procurement processes of their respective organizations", explained Tim Steele, UNODC Global Anti-Corruption Adviser.

The government delegates expressed their full appreciation for this practical workshop, based on a mix of presentations, group works and sharing of lessons learned by countries (in particular Thailand, Republic of Korea, Philippines and Malaysia). "This workshop was very useful and we gained a lot of knowledge on the various corruption risks in the public procurement process, and what to do about them", said Lin Yee Khin, Deputy Director of the Audit Division from the Office of the Auditor General of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.

Representatives from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Timor Leste, Thailand, and Viet Nam were present.

Click here to see the resources from the workshop.