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Transparency Case Study: Public Procurement in the Slovak Republic

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Introduction

Slovakia Presidential Palace

Transparency and open data policies and initiatives have reached a state of maturity where it is crucial for us to evaluate them to learn what works, what doesn’t and why. Transparency is not likely to be a cure-all, but we think it is a cure-some; so, we need to figure out where and how it should be best applied. As part of that process, we have been conducting a series of in-depth case studies on the impact of technology enabled transparency policies around the world. Our initial case studies look at transparency in public procurement and we have chosen four countries to study. This analysis discusses our findings about public procurement disclosure by the Slovakian government.

For the Slovakian case study, we conducted interviews or sent questionnaires and surveys to members of the following groups: members of transparency NGOs, journalists who have covered procurement, academic researchers, the Slovakian Government Office of Public Procurement and the Slovakian Business Alliance. The experiences of these diverse respondents have allowed us to develop an equally diverse and comprehensive picture of the impact of the public procurement reforms enacted in Slovakia over recent years.

Our major findings: Slovakians' increased access to public data has led to increased oversight and engagement by the civil sector and the public. However, because of a lack of enforcement, corruption in public procurement remains a significant problem.

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Learning why transparency matters: a new Sunlight Foundation research project

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We have so far been fortunate that most people intuitively grasp the value of technology-driven openness and transparency, and as a result, an impressive range of NGOs and governments around the world are building on the basic understanding that “Sunlight is the best disinfectant” (Justice Brandeis’ aphorism that gave the Sunlight Foundation its name). For example, as of this writing, 58 countries have signed onto the Open Government Partnership. But the quick-to-grasp nature of transparency’s potential has its dangers: 1) that we cease asking questions about it because it has become an article of faith; and 2) that, as strong advocates for the cause, we begin to oversell its potential (and thus undermine its genuine contributions). This year, we are kicking off an attempt to both clarify and test our understandings of what transparency can do. Thanks to support from Google.org, we at Sunlight are embarking on a research project to evaluate the impacts of technology-driven transparency policies around the world. We plan to conduct a series of case studies.

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