In January 2011 Slovakia introduced the regime of unprecedented openness by deciding to have the most of the public contracts published online. Since the Slovakia is perceived as one of the most corrupt countries in the EU, the rationale for the shift from passive (by demand) to active (automatic) transparency was to increase the engagement of the general public in the control of public institutions’ expenditures.
We estimate that between 2011 and 2014 Slovak authorities published approximately 2 million contracts. Almost 800 thousand contracts had been published by central authorities and are accessible through the Central contract registry (www.crz.gov.sk), the rest was published by Slovak municipalities. In its first Chapter the study describes the Slovak experience with this legislative change; it examines where the inspiration came from, how the policy was adopted, and what were immediate reactions from proponents as well as opponents of this major amendment. The study than proceeds with a discussion of costs and benefits of this policy, building on the experience of the most important stakeholders, such as journalists, activists, and policy-makers on local and national level. The third and fourth chapters focus on the ongoing challenges and provide recommendations that may serve not only the Slovak authorities, but also other countries interested in following the Slovakia’s example.
Findings suggest the benefits stemming from the proactive publication clearly outweigh the costs. Conducted survey shows that approximately one in ten adult in Slovakia has ever checked contracts online and the data indicates increasing public interest. One of the most important benefits of this change is that the media are able to act much more promptly than they used to and publish stories practically in the real-time, making it easier for journalists to actually affect public spending. In addition to that, the coverage of procurement and public expenditures increased by a quarter as compared to the previous 4-year period. Costs of the change seem to be relatively small on both national and local level of government and according to some, it is less burdensome than answering random citizens’ queries for information. Nevertheless, success of the reform depends on numerous factors – from internet availability, through the freedom and quality of media and NGOs, to the ability of officials to be held accountable for their actions. Mandatory contract publication cannot work independently as an anti-corruption tool and it is rather one piece of a mosaic of a much broader change towards higher transparency and more efficient government spending.
The study in English can be found here.