Did pandemic responses trigger corruption in public procurement? Comparing Italy and Germany

Eva Thomann*, Federica Marconi, Asya Zhelyazkova

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Public procurement is crucial for effective crisis responses, but is also prone to corruption. To ensure a swift provision of medical supplies in the COVID-19 pandemic, the public procurement regulations were dramatically relaxed. However, the implications for corruption require attention. This paper analyses how the regulatory responses to the crisis affected the risks and perceptions of corruption, by changing public-private interactions and the regulatory environment for public procurement. We compare the contrasting cases of Italy and Germany and triangulate legal analyses, secondary contract and survey data, and an online survey of public administrations (N = 445) and businesses (N = 175). Unexpectedly, in both countries, objective risks of corruption increased similarly. Sector-specific corruption perceptions stem from a low competitiveness of procedures, rule ambiguity, and a politicised bureaucracy. To avoid wasting resources and losing trust, regulatory responses to the crisis should include clear rules that safeguard competitive public procurement procedures and preserve bureaucratic independence.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of European Public Policy
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Aug 2023

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