Croatian transparency activists publish enormous database of government procurements, pointing the way to detecting corruption and fraud

Marko Rakar, leader of a kind of Croatian version of Wikileaks, has once again made a stir in Croatia. Previously, Rakar published a database showing rampant voter-fraud (this triggered a constitutional crisis and reform effort).

Now, Rakar's latest project is a database of "All the public procurement data for government spending since July 1, 2009, in easily searchable form." Though the data is all from publicly accessible government sites, Rakar's structuring of it in searchable form allows Croatians to find interconnections between elected officials and the companies they give contracts to, revealing potential fraud and corruption in the system, which is widely believed to be mired in fraud

First it is easy to use the tool to understand how much money each agency spent and where (this site covers not only government and ministries, but also agencies, municipalities, public utility companies and basically all entities which are by law obliged to follow public procurement law). Furthermore, it is easy to track and identify "winners" in the public procurement field and it is really easy to spot highly unusual contractors; for example companies which do business with a single government entity, companies with a huge amount of their turnover that only do business with government, or companies which have unusually high profit rates.

We have found a number of companies which appear to be founded only to service a single government contract. Journalists have already found a number of companies which have a number of multimillion contracts and are at the same time huge donors to the ruling party. We have found a horse farm which bid on and won a contract to lay underground power cable, we have found a company which is related to the Speaker of the House which reports unusually high profit rates (50% and above) worth millions (both in Croatian and US currency) and which primarily deals with advertising in public spaces (schools, hospitals and similar). We have found one company which belonged to the Minister of Interior which also received multimillion security related contracts with the government (while he is still in the office).

Rakar and I had a chat a few months ago, and he had hilarious -- and frightening -- stories of police seizure of his equipment, and of having to give technical support to the police forensics team, who couldn't figure out his dual-boot setup. He was thinking of replacing his keyboards with Das Keyboards without any key-labels, just to watch the investigation team try to touch-type on them (Croatian forensic procedure prohibits connecting third-party equipment to seized computers, lest they taint the evidence).

Croatian Transparency Activist Marko Rakar Making Waves Again

(Image: Marko Rakar 2, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from 57152978@N08's photostream)


    1. I wonder which keyboard layout they use in Croatia? Maybe QWERTY or AZERTY would confuse them just as much as Dvorak…

    2. Doesn’t have to be label-less. The Qwerty letters on a keyboard set to run in Dvorak mode add an extra level of confusion. Lots of people are initially convinced my computer is broken … Until I explain what’s going on.

  1. I imagine a world without dictators. Maybe technology can help us accomplish this before the infinitely-intelligent machines enslave us.

  2. In the US we expose fraud and corruption and it doesn’t do anything. 

    OpenSecrets shows you that the backers of SOPA and PIPA were given huge amounts of money by the film/tv industry.    Do they care?  No.

    The accounting investigation of the Iraq war showed that companies were literally raiding the government coffers, stealing from us.  Was anything done?  No.

    The Fed giveaway (and handing companies ultra-low-interest money to invest as their own is a giveaway) is like theft out of every one of our pockets.  Who is being punished?

    I swear – I felt like in the last fifteen years, they have given up even acting like they aren’t just robbing us blind.   The Savings and Loan scandal of the Reagan years seems so quaint.   Nowadays, no one even bothers with the “Scandal” part, and the thefts are for trillions instead of billions.

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