In 2020, due to the COVID pandemic, Spanish public administrations used emergency procedures to award 16,589 contracts worth 6,445 million euros to companies on a discretionary basis and with minimal control and transparency. And while the vast majority of these contracts were for the purchase of COVID-19 medical supplies, they were also used to award concessions to public television stations, buy taser guns and even hire camels for a Christmas parade.
In this data-driven research, Civio analysed for the first time the emergency contracts of all Spanish public administrations - national, regional and local - awarded and published in 2020. This serie was published by El Pais and received the following awards:
- Sigma Award 2022
- API Data Journalism Award 2022
- Observable Community Recognition Award 2021 to Carmen Torrecillas
In situations like this pandemic, public entities can issue emergency contracts without opening a file, even orally. But they do have to comply with transparency rules afterward and publish the details within 15 days. In 2020, it took an average of 43 days. And some of them are not even published yet.
The Spanish Ministry of Health paid more than six euros for each swab for PCR tests. The autonomous communities and municipalities didn't escape the price spikes either. In one case, they paid more than 100 euros for a 5-litre jug of hand gel.
This procedure was used - with no bids and little monitoring or transparency - in 16,589 contracts totaling 6.445 billion euros. The vast majority went to the purchase of supplies such as masks, but officials snuck in public television concessions, swimming pool operations, Tasers and even camels for a Three Kings parade.
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