Skip to main content

The Digital Whistleblower. Fiscal Transparency, Risk Assessment and Impact of Good Governance Policies Assessed

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - DIGIWHIST (The Digital Whistleblower. Fiscal Transparency, Risk Assessment and Impact of Good Governance Policies Assessed)

Reporting period: 2017-03-01 to 2018-02-28

The Digital Whistleblower: Fiscal Transparency, Risk Assessment and Impact of Good Governance Policies Assessed (DIGIWHIST) ran from March 2015 to February 2018, and was implemented by a consortium of 6 organisations led by the University of Cambridge.

Increasing both transparency and efficiency of public spending presents formidable challenges for European societies. Since public procurement is prone to corruption and budget deficit risks, high quality open data and innovative assessment tools hold the key to both.

The key objective of DIGIWHIST was to combine the provision of data on public spending with actionable indicators, thereby strengthening accountability and transparency of public administration. The project aimed to systematically collect, analyse, and broadly disseminate information on public procurement and on mechanisms that increase accountability of public officials in 35 jurisdictions (EU28 plus some neighbouring countries). This data has been linked to data on company and public body finances, ownership and on mechanisms that increase accountability of public officials in order to systematically investigate the patterns and mechanisms of allocation of public resources in Europe.

DIGIWHIST achieved all its goals, including mapping of 35 jurisdictions according to five areas of anticorruption-related legislation, covering 366 indicators per country. It collected structured data on over 17 million contracts in 33 jurisdictions while also calculating public procurement performance indicators such as administrative capacities or corruption risks. A Europe-wide dissemination effort led to both high-level policy makers and civil society actors recognising DIGIWHIST as a key contribution in the field and forging partnerships for a lasting impact beyond the project end.
Full details of DIGIWHIST’s ongoing activities and results can be found at www.digiwhist.eu.

The main outputs of the project are 3 data collection and infrastructure tools that will help to sustain and enlarge the project’s in the longer term:

1. Making Public Tenders More Transparent (Opentender) (www.opentender.eu) the key innovation of the project, is a platform that allows users to search and analyse tender-level data from 33 European jurisdictions either via a national portal or by exploring all available data at once. The web portals are optimised for use on mobile devices and text is available in 24 languages.

2. European Public Accountability Mechanisms (EuroPAM) (www.euroPAM.eu) is a data collection portal that produces assessments of in-law efforts across all 35 jurisdictions. EuroPAM allows the users to compare and visualize legal and regulatory norms in the fields of conflict of interest, public procurement, financial disclosure, party financing and freedom of information.

3. Monitoring European Tenders (MET) (www.monitoringeutenders.eu) is a risk assessment software for public authorities to assess the degree of integrity of European public procurement procedures. MET is mainly addressed to public officials, who will be able to monitor tendering risk weighting indicators based on the importance they attribute to them relative to their specific countries.

The project has produced 7 publications which are available via open access at www.repository.cam.ac.uk.

Dissemination and Exploitation of DIGIWHIST has been extremely successful; the project attracted unexpectedly high levels of interest very early on and this has continued to grow throughout the project, indicating considerable demand for greater transparency and actionable indicators in public procurement at inter-governmental and governmental levels as well as amongst civil society and academia.
Consortium staff have participated in 115 conferences and meetings globally and the project received coverage in 49 media articles. Additionally, we are aware of 10 third party publications based on DIGIWHIST data and research.

Interest in DIGIWHIST has been expressed by, inter alia, the World Bank, WTO, IMF, EIB, , EBRD, OECD, G20, various DGs within the EC, European Court of Auditors, the OSCE, the Open Government Partnership), Anti-corruption Unit at the UK Cabinet Office, the UK’s DFID, Government of Bulgaria, Italian Anti-corruption Agency, Polish Ministry of Economy, State Audit Body of Brazil, the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and the Croatian National Bank.
1) Awareness-raising:

While public procurement has long been considered a rather technical, non-strategic policy area, DIGIWHIST has built on the recent rise in high-level policy interest and substantially contributed to raising the profile of public procurement across Europe. Our successful outreach has contributed towards a shift in high-level policy interest towards considering and using public procurement as a strategic policy field, substantially contributing to achieving major policy objectives such as fighting inequality, fostering trade, or managing budget crises.

2) Civil society:

There are many NGOs across Europe which already monitor public procurement corruption and organise anticorruption action using findings. A growing number of watchdog portals are emerging across Europe, especially in Eastern Europe, which focus on public procurement or government contracting. Many of them are directly using DIGIWHIST data and/or indicators such as the recently launched portal for investigative journalists: tenders.exposed. Demand for our training and workshops has grown exponentially in the last months of the project as evidenced by requests from multiple Transparency International chapters, as well as universities and major international organisations.

3) Policy makers:

Our indicators allow for real-time monitoring of spending performance and targeted audits, while our research findings have had a wide ranging impact on high level politics and bureaucratic policy making. For example, the European Parliament’s flagship study on the cost of corruption across the EU produced a novel estimate for the cost of corruption based on our methodology. Our indicators are increasingly used for targeting audits and investigations by institutions such as major multilateral development banks.
Working with mid-level bureaucrats in a range of anticorruption and public procurement agencies has led to incremental but potentially high impact policy change. For example, the Swedish Competition Authority built on some of our recommendations for data quality improvements while it also explored how cartel investigations can be aided by DIGIWHIST data and indicators.
Our open data is already subject to various re-uses, for example the Slovak portal for monitoring public procurement tender.sme.sk which runs using its own extension of the DIGIWHIST published data.

4) Private sector companies: bidders and data providers:

A number of data provider companies and their clients have expressed interest and accessed the databases and indicators created by DIGIWHIST in order to better assess compliance risks, and gain more detailed insights of public procurement market structure. Major data provider companies are in the process of incorporating DIGIWHIST data into their compliance tools.