• Public procurement

    Public procurement

    Costa Rica

    Citizen volunteers from Costa Rica and Spain are helping reporters from La Voz de Guanacaste and Maldita to investigate suspicious government contracts detected by Guanadata, a powerful corruption risk alert system developed by Costa Rican journalists. They will be volunteering their time to analyse alerts, identify and prevent potential corruption cases in their municipalities, and participate in the project’s ongoing workshops and webinars.

    Getting to the bottom of suspicious business

    GuanaData, established six years ago, focuses on analysing public expenditure in local governments. Through grants, a group of journalists identified instances of nepotism, inefficiencies, and project delays in local government budgets, exposing the need for greater transparency. They discovered that the prevalent corruption discussed in towns stemmed from the challenging-to-access SICOP, Costa Rica’s public procurement system, which failed to comply with open government regulations. To overcome the laborious process of manually analysing SICOP’s data, the team collaborated with the Center of Investigative Reporting and developed an algorithm to extract public procurement data from six Guanacaste municipalities. By implementing corruption indicators, they created an automatic alert system for journalists when red flags were detected.

    Thus far, the project has successfully extracted a year’s worth of data, uncovering over 1,500 red flags. The alerts have been sent to journalists who are currently pursuing leads for their investigations. Now, the project seeks community support to further analyze and utilize this substantial dataset, aiming to enhance transparency, combat corruption, and foster positive change in local governance.

    Used Pathways

    The community investigators are being trained in the laws and rules that govern access to information in Costa Rica, how to formulate and submit freedom of information requests, and what to do when requests are denied or go unanswered.
    The community investigators are being trained on advanced techniques for using search engines like Google, and social networks to gather and verify information.
    The investigators are learning about interview techniques and tactics, and strategies for developing sources, taking into account the safety of your sources and yourself. 
    The community investigators are learning about public databases, including where to find them, how to use them, and examples of how they have been used for research in practice.
    The group will cover strategies for working with communities and volunteers to obtain information.
    The volunteers are learning about the procurement red flags tool Guanadata, and how it can be used to detect potential cases of corruption in the public procurement system of Costa Rica, which is known by its Spanish acronym SICOP. They will learn about the different kinds of alerts issued by the system and the parameters that trigger them, as well as methods used by researchers and journalists to investigate the alerts further.

    WHAT IMPACT after the investigation?

    This project was launched in late November 2023, so its impact will be evaluated in 2024.

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