Propose Changes to Central Register of Contracts Regulation (SK0080)
Action Plan: Slovak Republic National Action Plan 2017-2019
Action Plan Cycle: 2017
Lead Institution: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice in cooperation with the Plenipotentiary of the Government for the Development of Civil Society
Support Institution(s): NA
Policy AreasAnti-Corruption, Legislation & Regulation, Open Contracting and Public Procurement, Public Participation, Public Procurement
Central Register of Contracts was established pursuant to Law No. 546/2010 Coll. amending Act No. 40/1964 Coll. Civil Code, as amended, and amending and supplementing certain laws12. Based on the cur-rent legislation it is mandatory to publish contracts involving specified institutions (public authorities) in the Central Register of Contracts. In order for a contract to have legal force, publication of the contract is re-quired.
Practice has shown, however, that the legislation is not resistant to circumvention. The Government, there-fore, in order to enhance and expand the system of mandatory publication of contracts, commits itself to clarify the legal obligation of companies with wholly public ownership to disclose the contracts, to extend the mandatory publication of contracts on the internet from five to ten years from their effective date and to create a mechanism for monitoring compliance with the obligations to disclose the contracts. The Gov-ernment is also committed to establish a platform for publication of local self-government (municipality) contracts in a single central register.
Commitment No. 23: In a participatory manner, carry out an analysis of compliance with the obligation to publish contracts in the Central Register of Contracts, prepare a proposal of changes that will clarify the obligation and enable an effective mechanism for compliance verification, and submit these to the Government.
IRM Midterm Status Summary
THEME - Central Register of Contracts
Comm 23, 24
Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan[Note : The Office of the Plenipotentiary, “Open Government Partnership National Action Plan of the Slovak Republic 2017 – 2019”, http://bit.ly/2QYIlHV ]:
Commitment 23: “In a participatory manner, carry out an analysis of compliance with the obligation to publish contracts in the Central register of contracts, prepare a proposal of changes that will clarify the obligation and enable an effective mechanism for compliance verification, and submit these to the government”.
Commitment 24: “Create space for the publication of local self-government (municipality) contracts in a single central repository”.
Start Date: Not specified
End Date: 31 December 2017
Context and Objectives
The Central Register of Contracts[Note : The Central Register of Contracts, http://www.crz.gov.sk/ (in Slovak). ] was launched in 2011 as one of the most significant anti-corruption measures in the country, which initiated pro-active provision of government information. Since then all contracts that were concluded between the Government Office, ministries and other central government agencies, and certain public institutions and their suppliers have to be made publicly available online. Its publication in the register conditions the validity of the contracts. The register has received high acclaim from the international community[Note : Alexander Furnas, “Case Study: Open Contracting in the Slovak Republic”, Open Contracting Partnership, http://bit.ly/2R7tqLY. Ali Clare, David Sangokoya, Stefaan Verhulst and Andrew Young, “Open contracting and procurement in Slovakia: Establishing Trust in Government Through Open Data”, http://bit.ly/2DZfsZy ] and local stakeholders assess it positively. The register has helped uncover several cases of the misuse of public resources[Note : Radka Minarechová, “Non-transparent claims surround hospital”, The Slovak Spectator, http://bit.ly/2DGt4Ip; Vladimír Šnídl, “Armáda dostala luxusné SUV, na obrnené vozidlá čaká od revolúcie” (The army received a luxury SUV, but has been waiting for armored vehicles since the 1989 revolution), Dennikn.sk, http://bit.ly/2rCPLG9 (in Slovak); Ria Gehrerová, Katarína Kiššová, Júlia Brižeková and Juraj Koník, “Nebudeme komentovať. Nemocnice kupujú kontrastné látky aj so stopercentným predražením” (We will not comment. Hospitals buy contrast substances even with one hundred percent overprice), Dennikn.sk, http://bit.ly/2GkqquJ (in Slovak). ]. In 2015 Transparency International Slovakia (TI Slovakia) has conducted a study on the register and found out that the number of reported stories on procurement increased in mainstream media by 25% since the mandatory publication of contracts policy was introduced”[Note : Transparency International Slovakia, “Not in force until published online: What the radical transparency regime of public contracts achieved in Slovakia”, http://bit.ly/2S9ApnN ].
The first action plan included measures to improve the register[Note : The Office of the Plenipotentiary, “Open Government Partnership National Action Plan of the Slovak Republic”, http://bit.ly/2DKiGPZ]. However, to this day several problems remain. Almost two million contracts have been published in the register, and there is no agency to monitor the quality of published contracts and compliance with the FOI law more broadly. The information in the contracts is often incomplete, or its important pieces are blacked-out. An investigative journalist interviewed for this report thinks that analyzing compliance with the obligation to publish contracts in the register might be useful. He argues that is it positive that the state aims to conduct the analysis as otherwise, CSOs would need to look for resources to do it. Thus, commitment 23 to analyze compliance with the obligation to publish contracts in the Central Register of Contracts has a moderate potential impact. As written, it can enhance public participation, as analysis is expected to be prepared in a participatory manner. In addition, it has the potential to increase access to information in two ways. First, the analysis will provide information on the current flaws of the register and propose solutions. Second, if followed by actions, i.e. the recommendations will be well implemented, the commitment could eventually improve access to contracts.
Several interviewees also mentioned that it would be useful if municipalities’ contracts were added to the register[Note : It is important to note here that the Office of the Plenipotentiary does not have competencies over municipalities. Also, this would probably require an amendment of FOIA.]. Therefore, commitment 24 to enable the municipalities to publish contracts in a single central register of contracts is a useful measure. However, unless it stays an option and not an obligation, it will not change the status quo. As written, the commitment states the inclusion of municipalities contracts will be voluntary. Therefore, the impact is coded as minor only.
The IRM researcher recommends carrying this commitment forward to the next action plan. Several interviewees have mentioned the importance of the Central Register of Contracts, and at the same time, they have also emphasized its current limitations. An investigative journalist interviewed for this report mentioned several improvements he would welcome, for example, an option to sign up for alerts where he could specify criteria for contracts in which he is interested[Note : Interview with Martin Turček (Aktuality.sk), 15 October 2018. See Section ‘VI. Methodology and sources for details. ]. Based on the interviews and available reports, the IRM researcher suggests introducing an obligation for the municipalities to publish the contracts in the Central Register of Contracts. In order for this obligation to be effective, sanctions need to be tied to cases of its breach.