The Anticorruption Report. Volume 3: Government Favouritism in Europe

This volume reunites the fieldwork of 2014-2015 in the ANTICORRP project. It is entirely based on objective indicators and offers both quantitative and qualitative assessments of the linkage between political corruption and organised crime using statistics on spending, procurement contract data and judicial data. The methodology used in the analysis of particularism of public resource distribution is applicable to any other country where procurement data can be made available and opens the door to a better understanding and reform of both systemic corruption and political finance. The main conclusion of this report is that public procurement needs far more transparency and monitoring in old Member States, where it is far from perfect, as well as new ones and accession countries, where major problems can be identified, partly due to more transparency and monitoring.This policy report is the third volume of the policy series “The Anticorruption Report” produced in the framework of the EU FP7 ANTICORRP Project. The report was edited by Prof. Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, PhD from the Hertie School of Governance, head of the policy pillar of the project.

Print and e-book versions of all full reports can be purchased here.

Reviews for this publication

Public infrastructure projects and other types of government procurement almost everywhere in the world suffer from favoritism and corruption, if not outright criminality. The spoils always go to the people with the right connections, wealth, or the willingness to use or threaten violence. This is among the most difficult aspects of governance for scholars to study: those who talk don’t know, and those who know don’t talk. This slim volume summarizes detailed studies of favoritism in Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Turkey, and Ukraine. A final chapter shows how criminal organizations in many countries—including Mafia-like groups in Bulgaria and Italy—infiltrate national and EU-level public spending projects. Each chapter is packed with a remarkably rich set of charts, graphs, and statistical analyses that capture how much corruption exists and how it works. These succinct and eye-opening quantitative estimates of what really goes on beneath the surface of government make for indispensable reading and should straighten out anyone who doubts that the powerful always find ways to reinforce their influence and wealth, even on the “cleanest” of continents.

Andrew Moravcsik, Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University in Foreign Affairs

Uncovering High-Level Corruption: Cross-National Corruption Proxies Using Government Contracting Data

Measuring high-level corruption and government favouritism has been the object of extensive scholarly and policy interest with relatively little progress in the last decade. In order to address the lack of reliable indicators, this article develops two objective proxy measures of high-level corruption in public procurement: single bidding in competitive markets and a composite score of tendering ‘red flags’. Using publicly available official electronic records of over 2.8 million government contracts in 27 EU member states plus Norway in 2009-2014, it directly operationalizes a common definition of corruption: unjustified restriction of access to public contracts to favour a certain bidder. Corruption indicators are calculated at the level of contracts, but produce aggregate indices consistent with well-established country-level corruption indicators. Due to the common EU regulatory framework, indicators are consistent over time and across countries, while WTO regulations underpin global generalisability. Indicator validity is supported by correlations with well-established perception-based corruption indicators, and novel micro-indicators such as prices and supplier registration in tax havens. The utility of the novel indicators is demonstrated by using them to explain the effect of deregulation on corruption risks at the country level. In order to facilitate wide use of the data and indicators by researchers, journalists, NGOs, and governments, they are made publicly available at

Report on Turkey on institutions in public procurement for the infrastructure sector

The report employs national data to analyse recent developments in the construction sector. However, the contract-level procurement data have not been compiled as requests for the data were unanswered by the Turkish Public Procurement Agency. Therefore, aggregate data on public procurement have been used to trace developments in law and implementation. The post-2002 incumbent AKP government has to a large extent considered construction investments as an engine of economic growth which resulted in a substantial expansion of this sector. The Turkish Public Procurement Law (PPL) came into force in 2003 to bring Turkey into compliance with EU procurement standards. Although certain improvements have been achieved, frequently introduced exemptions distorted the rules and procedures for transparency, competition and non-discrimination. A considerable number of amendments have aimed at removing major public contracts from the scope of PPL. Recently, Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) have been used principally to build up large-scale infrastructure projects. Due to the large capital requirements and the fact that the legal structure of PPPs is largely incompatible with the PPL and the EU regulations, only a smaller group of companies which have allegedly close connections with top level politicians win PPP projects worth billions of Euros. Thus, under the current framework, PPPs in the Turkish construction sector are significantly prone to corruption risks.

Report on Romania on institutions in public procurement for the infrastructure sector

Improving infrastructure in Romania has been a significant project in the past 25 years. Unfortunately, although large amounts of public funds were spent in the construction sector from 2007 to 2013 (an average of 6.6% of GDP), the physical results in terms of project quality and completion do not match this investment. One of the explanations for this is that public contracts were awarded to companies based on corrupted practices or political connections, the focus being on redistributing public money and not achieving high quality construction works.The present research points to the fact that statistical data analysis can be used in detecting corruption. The practice of single bidding and the tendency to establish political connections exist in the entire public procurement market. Nonetheless, non-EU funded contracts present a higher corruption risk. Only 1 out of 7 contracts receiving European funding were awarded to a single bidder, as opposed to 1 out of 4 contracts financed by the state budget. Still, 1 out of every 3 contracts won by a politically connected firm involved European funding. Data analysis also concluded that the number of contracts awarded per company can be explained by single bidding and the existence of a political connection in 44% of the cases. The agency-capture analysis revealed that favouritism in public procurement occurs especially at the local level and in state-owned companies. Most of the companies that “captured” contracting authorities are politically connected firms.At the same time, the case studies give an account of how firms’ owners go to great lengths to consolidate a network of relationships with high ranking officials so as to keep their doors open and contact political elites, but also various state institutions whose activity can favour or disrupt their companies’ economic well-being.

Report on Hungary on institutions in public procurement for the infrastructure sector

This report aims to document and to investigate the extent and the determinants of government favouritism in EU funded infrastructure development. It uses a variety of qualitative and quantitative research methods. While predominantly relying on the analysis of contract-level quantitative data on Hungarian public procurement, it also provides a discussion of the institutional framework and particular cases based on document analysis and interviews.It finds that public procurement of infrastructure from national or EU Funds is a hotspot for corruption in Hungary just like in the other countries investigated by ANTICORRP Work Package 8. However, corruption is not pervasive everywhere and even high-level political influence has it limits. While the economic environment has varied greatly, public procurement spending on infrastructure followed a political logic with elections, EU funding cycles, and political power games playing a crucial role. It has proven to be one key public resource up for grabs for corrupt elites. Controls of corruption in public procurement in general are weak: not only is effective transparency very limited and declining rapidly since 2010, but also institutional remedies are likely to be controlled by the current governing party.As a result of extensive public resources available, weak controls, and a complex regulatory environment facilitating close cooperation between bidders and public bodies, corruption is widespread in infrastructure provision. Political connections, far from having a uniform impact, are effective in facilitating rent extraction only when organisational integrity is weak and both the bidders and contracting entities are politically controlled. In micro-cosmoses of high integrity, political connections are ineffective at best, but may even handicap companies.

Report on Germany on institutions in public procurement for the infrastructure sector

Germany has the highest public procurement expenditure in the EU, with an average of 370 billion euros a year between 2009 and 2013. The main objective of this report is to shed some light on the inner workings of the German public procurement system by providing a general overview of its historical development, the current trends in procurement spending and assessing potential risks for corruption. Given that Germany has two parallel procurement systems active at the time, one for contracts above the EU thresholds and one for the contracts underneath these limits, each one of them is evaluated separately. The lack of high quality tender-level data for the case of Germany made it impossible to base the risk assessment on objective indicators. Therefore, this report relies on different sources of data to determine the size of the procurement spending in the country, the manner in which it is allocated and the potential risks of corruption. The study concludes that the public procurement system in Germany – especially the one in place for contracts underneath EU thresholds – is vulnerable to corruption given its complex legislation that damages nation-wide competition, the lack of transparency in the awarding process, a clear or unified national legislation and the low utilization of e-procurement platforms.

Report on Croatia on institutions in public procurement for the infrastructure sector

This report seeks to assess the extent of favouritism – i.e., preferential treatment for some bidders over others – in the allocation of public procurement contracts in the construction sector in Croatia. The methodology is based on identifying opportunities for favouritism and evaluating the effectiveness of constraints. The research finds that Croatia’s public procurement law sets a high standard and there are numerous transparency and control mechanisms in place. Nevertheless, the integrity of procurement is undermined because a large share of it is contracted by entities which are owned by government units and thus subject to political influence and constrained by a much weaker control framework. Data on the procurement of high-value construction works is analysed for indicators of favouritism in the process or outcomes. Whilst there is only limited use of restrictive procedures, competition for public contracts is surprisingly weak in a sector under considerable economic pressure. Moreover, around one-half of the total contract value is won by tenderers which are not private companies but rather entities that are partially or fully owned by the state. This raises further questions about the potential for political leaders to influence the process in order to achieve favouritism in the allocation of public contracts, to benefit themselves or third parties. Evidence from the verdict of a trial involving high-ranking politicians suggests further that such favouritism may be widespread.

Report on Bulgaria on institutions in public procurement for the infrastructure sector

The Bulgarian public procurement market constituted 9% of national GDP on average from 2009 – 2013, which is lower than the EU average. Public procurement has been particularly important for the construction sector in the country, with approximately a third of total sector turnover deriving from public procurement in 2013. Since the onset of the economic crisis in 2008 the survival of the construction sector in Bulgaria has essentially hinged on public procurement, coming mostly from EU funds. This concentration of market power in the hands of the public administration, coupled with a history of lack of effectiveness, integrity and control, and persistent structural governance deficiencies imply significant corruption risks. Although the legal framework has continuously improved, it is subject to too frequent changes to ensure proper implementation.The firm-level analysis of the public procurement contracts awarded to the top 40 construction companies included in the paper, confirms the trend of concentration of the construction sector. The data does not confidently detect a specific type of favouritism but corruption risks are detected in specific cases, especially involving large-scale construction projects in the infrastructure and energy sectors. Anecdotal evidence abounds that powerful private operators exert pressure on the public administration to channel public procurement to major companies, linked either legally and/or through circles of influence to them.

International Anti-corruption Normative Framework: the State of the Art

This paper looks into the main debates in International Relations on norm compliance. It looks at the three causal factors that help us explain the origins of norms in relation to anti-corruption introduced by McCoy and Heckel (2001): (1) post-Cold War era; (2) social process, i.e. interaction among actors and diffusion of information; and (3) internal process where ‘cognitive and motivational processes of individuals’ may contribute to the generation of norms. Using the model developed by Finnemore and Sikkink (1998) on the life cycle of a norm, it shows how international anti-corruption norms took root by tracing the development of various regional and international legal instruments. Finally, the UNCAC is analysed in more detail, as it has been recognised as a reference framework for the fight against corruption, due to which many countries formally adopted ethical universalism as a norm. The paper argues that international actors must put in place such a monitoring mechanism; otherwise implementation of UNCAC could become an end in itself. However, it is not possible to have significant progress without domestic demand for new rules of the game and public participation in a sustainable mechanism which would prevent the eternal reproduction of privilege.

Background report on international and European law against corruption

This report sets the background and the methodology design for the WP10 of the ANTICORRP project. WP10 seeks to explore whether and the extent to which, EU states comply with international anti-corruption norms, as well as their domestic implementation and enforcement. It has four main research objectives: a) to measure state compliance and implementation of international anti-corruption norms in Europe; b) to explore whether international law has an independent causal influence over the anti-corruption laws, policies and practices adopted by EU states; c) to identify patterns of variation of state compliance and implementation, whether cross-national, or across sectors and issue areas; and d) to explore the factors that account for significant variation across sectors or states.This report provides the empirical and analytical groundwork for pursuing the above research objectives and for defining the appropriate methodology to do so. It is divided into five main parts. In the first part, the authors briefly present the origins of how the fight against corruption became an issue of interest for the international community and for European and international organisations from the 1970s onwards, but especially since the 1990s. They then define corruption and its various aspects and forms, they discuss the difficulties in arriving at a commonly agreed definition and review some of the criticisms levelled against the legal approach to fighting corruption, as well as in regard to the domestic influence and effectiveness of international and EU law in this area more broadly. In the last part of this background section, the authors give an overview of the state of corruption in the EU28 on the basis of various indices and assessments compiled by international organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).The second part of this report provides an overview of European and international legal norms and instruments against corruption, which are directly relevant for EU member states. The authors review both soft and hard law, describing their origins and how they emerged, the peer-review and monitoring mechanisms that they put in place, and how they work. The third part of the report is conceptual: it defines and analyses the concepts of compliance with, as well as implementation and effectiveness of international law. Most importantly, it conceptualises their relevance and applicability in regard to anti-corruption norms and conventions, and defines a way of measuring state compliance and implementation in this area. The fourth part of this report delineates four sectors or issue areas, which have been targeted by international and European norms against corruption: international economic transactions, conflict of interest, free speech and whistle-blowers’ protection and political party funding. The final part of the report defines the appropriate research methodology of the group of studies to be conducted within WP10, and identifies the sources of primary and secondary information and documentation to draw from in pursuing the aforementioned objectives.

Quantitative report on causes of performance and stagnation in the global fight against corruption

Why do some societies manage to establish control of corruption and others not? Control of corruption is defined in this report as the capacity of a society to constrain individual corrupt behavior (defined as particular distribution of public goods leading to undue private profit) in order to enforce the norm of individual integrity in public service and politics as well as to uphold a state that is free from capture by particular interest.This report sought to answer this main research question from an interdisciplinary perspective and by a large-N comparison method. For the dependent variables, the report uses: the aggregated Control of Corruption Index (CoC) from World Bank, the Corruption Risk Index from the International Country Risk Guide (ICRG), the experience with bribe and perception of official’s corruption from Global Corruption Barometer 2013, the experience with bribe and perception of favoritism from ANTICORRP’s own QOG 2013 European survey, the expert perception of diversion of public funds from World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Survey and the tolerance towards corrupt practices from World Values Survey 2008.

Are EU funds a corruption risk? The impact of EU funds on grand corruption in Central and Eastern Europe

Fazekas et al explore the impact of EU structural funds on institutionalised grand corruption in three countries where corruption is systemic – Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia – between 2009-2012. They examine whether EU funds have contributed to weakening institutional quality in terms of wasteful public spending and increased ‘legal’ corruption conducted through public procurement. By exploiting a unique pooled database containing contract-level public procurement information for all three countries they are able to systematically examine corruption risks associated with EU funding at the micro-level. The authors also develop a composite corruption risks indicator based on the incidence and logical structure of ‘irregularities’ in individual public procurement transactions.

Fazekas et al. ultimately claim that EU funding impacts institutionalised grand corruption in CEE in two ways: first, by providing additional public resources available for corrupt rent extraction; second, by increasing the controls of corruption for the additionally allocated funding. Their preliminary calculations indicate that the first effect increases the value of particularistic resource allocation in the three countries up to 1.21% of their GDPs, while the second effect decreases the value of particularistic resource allocation by up to 0.03% of GDP. However, the latter beneficial effect is entirely driven by Slovakia, which has a high national corruption risk level; while in Czech Republic and Hungary this impact is even negative. The authors conclude with several policy recommendations calling for a radical improvement of the monitoring and controlling framework.

Corruption in universities: a blueprint for reform

What is to be done when an entire education system is corrupted, when universities sell cheap diplomas and the best academics move abroad? Corruption in the academy can be challenged by a ‘clean universities’ ranking and the power of press coverage.

The Transparency Paradox: Why do Corrupt Countries Join EITI?

Rules that require actors to make their finances transparent have become a key part of the anti-corruption toolkit, under the assumption that sunlight is the best disinfectant.  This logic underpinned the creation, in 2002, of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international club aimed at reducing corruption in oil, gas and mining.  The initiative has proved popular, with 16 countries now EITI compliant and 23 others having achieved candidate status.  However, as a soft law standard to which countries voluntarily commit, EITI presents a paradox: why would corrupt governments voluntarily expose themselves to sunlight?  Does its popularity imply that it is meaningless?  The authors argue that governments join because they are concerned about their reputation with international donors and expect to be rewarded by increased aid. David-Barrett and Okamura’s quantitative analysis demonstrates that countries do gain access to increased aid the further they progress through the EITI implementation process.  However, they also find that EITI achieves real results in terms of reducing corruption.  The authors suggest that this is because EITI requires countries to build multi-stakeholder institutions which improve accountability, and provide qualitative evidence about how this has worked in several countries.

Bottom of the Heap. The Case of Romania

The suspension of EU payments in four operational programmes in 2012 showed how problematic Romania’s correct and effective management of EU funds is. Such funds aim primarily at decreasing the socio-economic disparities among EU members and support the economic convergence with their Western counterparts of less developed new EU members. Consequently, a poor absorption rate of EU funds threatens income convergence between old and new member countries, thus representing a major challenge for EU integration. Currently, Romania has the poorest absorption rate among all the EU Member States and the worst among the ten new Member States. Moreover, the financial corrections, which amount to roughly 22% of the assimilated European funds, further reduce the real absorption rate, a loss which can be attributed entirely to corruption and mismanagement. The present report investigates the proportion of EU funds which can reasonably be considered at risk because of mismanagement and corruption, asks what are the main defrauding tactics used at national level to obtain European money illicitly, and considers the extent to which the suspension or cancellation of EU assistance might be the best policy for dealing with the situation. In addition, the report will put forward a list of recommendations for the next EU programming period which are intended to mitigate the effects of corruption and mismanagement that result in a waste of public resources.

Hidden Depths. The Case of Hungary

This report investigates corruption risk of EU funds spending in Hungary within the framework of the Public Procurement Law. Its finding is that in spite of what is a tight regulatory framework EU funds are likely to fuel the abuse of public spending. Even though public procurement using EU funds faces considerably more stringent regulation, their use poses much greater corruption risks when compared with funds procured domestically and corruption risks are particularly pronounced for large projects. The report also argues that large-scale institutionalized corruption in Hungary may be widespread and driven primarily by political cycles. Such corruption, often labeled “legal corruption”, typically involves neither bribery nor collusion between lower level bureaucrats and private individuals; rather, it operates through contractual relationships which benefit the highest echelons of the political and business elite. There are a small number of new anti-corruption initiatives of the new government which entered office in 2010, but while they might indicate a positive step towards higher public sector integrity, their results are yet to be seen.

FOIA as an Anti-Corruption Tool

This paper tests, explores and exemplifies the role of freedom of information legislation as an anti-corruption tool. In the first part, its tests freedom of information separately and in comparison with other more popular anti-corruption tools, such as an anti-corruption agency. In the second part, it proposes a more elaborated model explaining control of corruption and argues that transparency legislation is intermediated by the existence of civil society and does not work in its absence. In its last and final part it exemplifies with a project in Romania how freedom of information can be used as an integrity building tool.

Corruption and Politics in Uruguay

Transparency scores in Uruguay have improved in the last fifteen years in both absolute and comparative terms. This paper argues that this change is the result of a long-run process of transformation in Uruguayan politics from competitive particularism to an open access regime. First, this paper briefly reviews the political and institutional changes that led governance in Uruguay to be based on universalistic norms. Next, it uses public opinion and elite survey data to provide descriptive evidence about citizen perceptions of levels of corruption. Third, the paper uses media data to explore the place that corruption held in the public agenda during the last fifteen years. Finally, using court records, it evaluates the efficacy of existing structures to punish abuses. These analyses help to clarify the main features that lie behind the categorization of Uruguay as a contemporary achiever in terms of government transparency.