Beneficial ownership data in procurement

  • Publication date: 11 March 2021
  • Authors: Tymon Kiepe, Eva Okunbor

Conclusion

Recently, there have been many discussions about the use of BO data in procurement. This is due in part to the numerous politically linked scandals in COVID-19 procurement, and the dozens of countries that have committed to BOT in procurement as a result. The use of BO data in procurement is not new, and is already being practiced in some places.

BO data is essential in order to know with whom one is doing business. Using BO data in procurement to help make decisions and conduct analysis can help achieve a range of procurement policy objectives. It can help prevent corruption and fraud, limit wastage, improve service delivery, and help establish bidder eligibility in strategic procurement, which are essential to the appropriate expenditure of public funds. Full transparency over who owns and controls companies in a jurisdiction can also improve procurement indirectly and systemically. BOT reduces operational and financial risk within an economy and improves the business environment overall.

This briefing argues that in order to get the maximum potential impact of BO data in procurement, the data should be collected, verified, and published centrally by governments; procurement should not just be combined with BO data, but with BOT. Many governments that already collect data centrally do not seem to be systematically using this data in their procurement processes. Given that over 100 countries have committed to implementing central and public BO registers, [97] and some of them, like EU member states, are legally bound to do so, it would be an obvious step for governments to make use of BO data in order to improve their procurement processes. As BOT is implemented in a growing number of jurisdictions, this will increase the availability of data on foreign entities globally that may be used in procurement processes.

BOT is useful in many different policy areas in government, and centralised registers allow governments to use BOT in each of these areas. Given the global shift towards BOT, it would make sense to integrate it into procurement reform. BOT is not a panacea for challenges in procurement, but a relatively basic, necessary and underused step that can help improve procurement.

If governments collect, verify, and publish their data in machine-readable structured formats, the data is interoperable and can be joined with other datasets for analysis, or incorporated into automated processes that should help procurement officers do their jobs. As a number of initiatives have already demonstrated, the challenges to implementation are surmountable.

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Footnotes

[97] “Worldwide commitments and action”, Open Ownership, n.d., https://www.openownership.org/map/.