Colombia, like many other countries in the world, has long suffered from both corruption and inefficiency in public works contracts. In 1993 Congress tried to address this issue by passing Law 80 which set up the General Statute for Public Contracting, a law that was reformed in 2007. In 1998 Decree 2405 established the Presidential Programme to Fight against Corruption. In 2006 the state also set up a national electronic public contract system (SECOP) which operates through the Portal Único de Contratación administered by the Ministry of Finance. In Bogota the district government’s own electronic system, Contratación a la Vista, was set up even earlier, in 2003.
This note, by Alan Gilbert, summarises the issues surrounding transparency and corruption in public contracting in Colombia. The attachments to this note provide more detail about official attempts to stop corruption, about some of the scandals that have broken out in recent months, and about how corruption can take place despite the efforts to stop it.
Attachment 1 reports on usage of Bogotá’s Internet portal for bids on construction projects.
Attachment 2 provides excerpts from one of the few Colombian studies that have attempted
to evaluate how the portals and the anti-corruption system have been operating. The system was written by Transparency International’s Colombia branch on the problems facing public contracting in the country.
Attachment 3 summarises some of the recent scandals that have been revealed across the country.
Attachment 4 is based on an interview with an insider well versed in obtaining contracts. The
essential argument is that corruption begins with the electoral process and the way in which
contracts finance candidates and buy votes.
Attachment 5 is part of an interview with Juan Martin Caicedo, a former mayor of Bogotá and now Director of the National Chamber of Infrastructure. He argues that the basic problem underpinning corruption is poor project design: specify the job and the cost clearly and the danger of corruption largely disappears.