What can citizens do when public contracts data gets released into the wild?

Well, in Slovakia we have seen (via Transparency International) that around 10% of the population goes into the procurement portal to check what is being purchased by whom and from what suppliers.

In Portugal numbers are probably not as high, although every now and again the local press decides to publish something. Well, some people are taking matters into their own hands and blogging about potentially shady contracts at Ma Despesa Publica. It roughly translates into "Bad Procurement".

I like the style and most of the content is good (if not from a gossipy type of way). It is great to see pressure being gently applied upon public servants to explain why and how they spend taxpayers money. For example, monthly security services contracts being awarded without competition smells of fractioning/unbundling, something completely illegal under EU law. Well spotted ladies and gents.

However, as one professor of economics once told me, the downside of putting this information out there is that a lot of people which do not understand how public procurement works will be blowing whistles where there are none to blow.

Case in point, a stated owned company (although in the process of being wound up) hired some lawyers via the negotiated procedure (direct award in Portuguese). My views about legal services not being subject to the rules of Directive 2014/24/EU and Directive 2004/18/EC are probably well known by now, and no one more than me would like to see them changed. However, "we are where we are" and unfortunately legal services can legally be awarded directly. Furthermore, this particular contract was well below EU thresholds and the national law also allows for this type of action. Instead of railing against a decision that is (unfortunately) entirely legal, this energy would be better spent lobbying to change the legislation.

I hope the next Government shows some spine and starts chipping away at the discretion of contracting authorities to use these type of procedures be it for legal services or any others. It would be great if started in the legal services though.