Corruption in Government IT Tendering: Taxpayers' Money Wasted on Unqualified Bidders

Corruption in Government IT Tendering: Taxpayers' Money Wasted on Unqualified Bidders

Reza Farhadi
3 min read

Corruption in Government IT Tendering: Taxpayers' Money Wasted on Unqualified Bidders

Government IT public tendering has been a hotbed of corruption, undermining taxpayers' benefits and the integrity of public procurement. A recent discussion among IT sales managers in Europe revealed frustrations over a no-name no-experience provider winning a major IT contract, hinting at the persistent corruption and favoritism plaguing the sector. Studies and reports underscore the prevalence of corruption, which significantly inflates costs and reduces the quality of services. Notable scandals across Europe and the US illustrate how systemic issues in public procurement continue to allow unqualified providers to win lucrative contracts through corrupt means.

Key Takeaways

  • High Incidence of Corruption: Corruption in government IT procurement can account for up to 20% of spending, affecting national GDPs significantly.
  • Cost Implications: The EU loses approximately €5 billion annually to corruption in public procurement, including IT services.
  • Detection and Measurement: Advanced methods like machine learning are being employed to detect corruption through indicators like low bid participation rates and poorly negotiated contracts.
  • Global Perspective: Corruption estimates vary widely, with bribes ranging from 8% to 25% of the value of procured goods and services.
  • Major Scandals: High-profile cases in Greece, Latvia, Southeast Europe, Hungary, Germany, Switzerland, and the US highlight the widespread nature of procurement corruption.


Government IT Tendering IS Dirty

Corruption in government IT procurement has long been a challenge. A recent business lunch among IT sales managers in Eruope revealed dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs, as a no-name provider with no experience won a significant contract. This situation exemplifies how public IT sourcing is susceptible to corruption and manipulation. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), procurement corruption can account for up to 20% of spending even in countries with high integrity systems, showing how deeply ingrained these issues are.

Major IT Tendering Scandals in the EU and US


In 2023, EU anti-fraud authorities investigated public tenders in Greece involving €2.5 billion from the EU's COVID-19 recovery fund, focusing on biased tenders favoring specific telecom and IT companies.


In 2022, four individuals in Latvia were convicted for organizing a fraudulent €780,000 public tender. They colluded to produce fake documents, securing the contract for a pre-selected company.

Southeast Europe

Systemic issues with public procurement in Southeast Europe include tailoring tender specifications to favor certain bidders and legal immunity for large IT providers due to a lack of prosecutions.


Cases in Hungary revealed irregularities in EU-funded IT contracts, including a public lighting contract won by a company co-owned by the PM's son-in-law, leading to a recommended recovery of around €1 billion due to procurement deficiencies.


In 2022, SAP was involved in a bribery scandal over public procurement contracts in Germany, highlighting corruption risks in IT tendering processes.


A major scandal in Switzerland involved a former head of department at SECO manipulating tender evaluations to award overpriced IT contracts, resulting in significant financial and reputational damages.

United States

The Oracle Bribery Scandal in 2019 and the Hewlett-Packard (HP) Bribery Case in 2014 revealed substantial corruption in IT procurement, with companies paying significant bribes to secure public contracts.

Systemic Issues Harms Public Tendering

Corruption and favoritism in public IT procurement often result from several systemic issues:

  1. Corruption and Favoritism: Contracts are awarded to firms lacking qualifications through bribery and favoritism.
  2. Inadequate Evaluation Criteria: Poorly designed criteria lead to the selection of unqualified providers.
  3. Transparency and Accountability: Lack of transparency allows corrupt practices to thrive, even with open bidding processes.
  4. Capacity Building: Procurement officials often lack the training and resources needed for effective bid evaluation.

Did You Know?

Despite increased transparency, corruption and favoritism still persist in public IT tendering due to tailored specifications, conflicts of interest, bribery, and limited oversight.

  • Tailored specifications can effectively exclude competitors, with over half of companies in the EU experiencing this issue.
  • Bribery and kickbacks continue to influence procurement decisions, often occurring behind closed doors, making detection challenging.
  • Studies indicate that high levels of administrative discretion can lead to favoritism and corruption, underscoring the need for clear and objective criteria in procurement processes.


The persistence of corruption in government IT procurement underscores the need for continuous efforts to enhance transparency, enforce stringent anti-corruption measures, and invest in capacity building for procurement officials. Only through a comprehensive approach can the integrity of public procurement be safeguarded, ensuring taxpayers' money is used efficiently and effectively.

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