Our impact and that of our donors
Civio has been a turning point for transparency and the access to information in Spain. The proof is in the tangible progress, the positive impact for the whole of society that we have been achieving since 2021 with our particular way of doing journalism and advocacy.
Above all, we are a public service. Here’s what we make possible, and how - step by step, with the vital support of our members:
We make corruption and improper use of government procurement more difficult
The most serious cases of corruption in recent years have all been linked to public procurement, and it’s no coincidence. The tender process has never been transparent from start to finish, and nobody has systematically monitored it to identify irregularities. But in 2017, our investigations into public procurement leapt from the headlines to parliament. From exposing abuses to changing the law.
Since 2013, we’ve been dissecting the BOE (Official State Gazette) and other sources to report on new public procurement contracts, gain an in-depth understanding of how they work and pinpoint the source of irregularities. For example, in a tender for institutional advertising campaigns which side-stepped the law.
In 2016 we presented Who’s paid for the work?, the first major x-ray of public works contracts in Spain. Over 8000 tenders for public works - amounting to some €39m - analysed to find out which companies won them, how, and what factors might entail the risk of corruption. We were able to ascertain that information essential to monitoring abuses was held back from the public.
This would prove to be the spark that triggered other later investigations. From one on minor contracts and the infamous contract splitting or dividing of contracts in order to award them to hand-picked contractors, to the most recent one into the use of emergency contracts throughout the pandemic. We bet it never occurred to you that, under the guise of the health crisis, items such as camels for the Kings’ Day Parade and laser guns were procured. Us neither, until we were able to prove it.
In the previous months, we released dozens of databases for collective use. Like this one on tenders suspected of having been split up. And believe us, they get used. We also shared data and analysis methods with anti-corruption agencies, given that their resources are never enough to tackle the enormous challenge they face. Over months we brought together experts, public officials, civil society organisations and citizens to learn about how to improve public procurement in Spain. Everything we learned, which was a lot, has been made public.
Influence (i.e., lobbying)
However, it’s pointless denouncing malpractice if we don’t help to prevent it in the first place. And 2017 was a key moment: Spain was supposed to modify its public procurement procedures in line with European regulations. So we gathered everything we’d learned, presented it in the form of concrete recommendations and amendments, and took it to Parliament. Our aim: to have the transparency and corruption prevention obligations inserted into the new text.
Between 2016 and 2017 we held five meetings and one video-conference with the main parties represented in parliament. And, since to demand transparency we have to lead by way of example, the dates of these meetings, names of attendees and all documents exchanged were made public via our own meetings register.
The effort was rewarded: several of our proposals were first considered as amendments for debate, before being written into law.
The new regulation included articles handwritten by Civio, lifted directly from the amendments we had put to the parties months earlier. Most importantly: that the whole procurement process - from pre-studies to amendments, execution and more - needs to be more trans parent. An anti-corruption watchdog - the current Independent Office for Procurement Regulation and Supervision (OIRESCON in Spanish) - was also set up, although lacking the full independence and funding we asked for.
What about now?
Today we continue to work on new ways to investigate and monitor public sector procurement fraud. We are committed to ensuring the law is systematically and fully complied with, because we are aware of many authorities who only publish part of the information they are required to. We also focus on calling for more independence and funding for the body set up to ensure compliance with the law and detect irregularities. We’ve laid the foundations, but we have to be persistent and not budge even one step backwards.