Digital infrastructure for sharing information about companies bidding for public contracts

Norway intends to establish a digital infrastructure for sharing information about companies bidding for public contracts. The government will consider whether this database should be expanded to include criminal records and information on corrupt bidders. This question raises both legal and practical/technical concerns.

Completion Status:
Fulfilled

Commitment filtering:

Specific:yes

The commitment is specific in identifying a concrete anti-corruption mechanism – digital infrastructure for sharing information about companies bidding for public contracts.

Measurable:yes

This commitment includes in its second part non-committal language (‘”will consider”), which makes this part non-measurable. However, as the first part of the commitment includes a measurable action (the establishment of the digital infrastructure), we include that part in the monitoring.



Last updated: 30 August 2022
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Evaluation:

This commitment can be monitored in three parts. The first is whether the digital infrastructure has been created. The second is the extent to which expansion of the infrastructure to include criminal records and information on corrupt bidders has been considered and implemented. The third is whether the legal, practical and technical concerns raised in the commitment have been addressed.

The commitment to streamlining and improving public procurement by fully digitising the procurement process between January 2018 and December 2024 was made by the Norwegian Agency for Public and Financial Management (DFØ), under the responsibility of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries.[1] The commitment being monitored is part of an overall commitment included in Norway’s Open Government Partnership National Action Plan, 2021-2022.[2]

The digital infrastructure was created under the name “eBevis Service” and has been in production since May 2019.[3] According to information provided by the Department for Digital Transformation, in the DFØ Division for Public Procurement, it is not an open service and is implemented through market-based procurement systems. This means that the eBevis Service was created as a back-office application to be installed behind the interface of regular procurement systems. To build it in this way required convincing procurement system vendors to implement the service, which was free of charge bar vendors’ internal development costs. The Brønnøysund Business Register (BR) and the Norwegian Digitalisation Agency (Digdir) collaborated in the development of the eBevis Service, before the Division for Public Procurement moved to the DFØ. One service provider and two contracting authorities collaborated with them in a pilot. The eBevis Service for public procurement formed the basis for a wider service (data.altinn.no) offered by BR and Digdir.[4] This wider service is being used in other areas such as retrieval of evidence for taxi licences and sharing data between different inspection authorities. According to DFØ’s Division for Public Procurement, DFØ is currently responsible for the procurement side of the eBevis Service, and provides guidance on its use and the interpretation of evidence. DFØ also participates in an informal governance team, as indicated by a member of the Department for Digital Transformation.

According to the Division of Public Procurement, the inclusion of criminal records was considered for the first release of the eBevis Service, but was finally dismissed as too difficult, for legal, technical and organisational reasons. The legal challenge was the need to map the legal references of the different criminal convictions mentioned in the Procurement Directive to Norwegian legislation, in order to know what information to check. To check a company involves assessing both whether the company itself has any conviction and whether any board members or central contact persons have convictions, which implies General Data Protection Regulation issues. In addition, as reported by the Division of Public Procurement, the security for such functionality must be extremely comprehensive and requires deep consideration from legal, procurement and technical perspectives. Regarding the technical challenges, the internal system of criminal convictions is considered old and difficult to integrate, which implies that the police certificate should be made manually. In terms of organisational challenges, there is no previous experience of using criminal records as evidence in public procurement. The assessment of these challenges was made by the DFØ and the Brønnøysund Register Centre, based on their own deliberations about the likelihood of succeeding within their timeframe.

 

Recommendations
  • Include within the commitment details of how it will be assessed.
  • Work with CSOs to overcome challenges, for example, on GDPR issues, and to consider the use of potentially helpful resources such as the Open Sanctions datasets.[5]

 

[1] Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, Norway’s National OGP Action Plan 2021-2022, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Norway_Action-Plan_2019-2022_Amended_20211103_EN.pdf

[2] Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, Norway’s National OGP Action Plan 2021-2022, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Norway_Action-Plan_2019-2022_Amended_20211103_EN.pdf

[3] The Brønnøysund Register Centre, Easier public procurement with eDocumentation, https://www.brreg.no/en/easier-public-procurement-with-edocumentation/?nocache=1652264922070

[4] Altinn, Products, https://data.altinn.no/produkter#2bMT9

[5] OpenSanctions, Collections, https://www.opensanctions.org/datasets/

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