It is hard to imagine a more prosaic-sounding government job title than “contract administration.” It is equally hard to imagine one more neglected, both by governments and the anticorruption community. The House of Commons reports that British civil servants consider contract administration “mechanical and unimportant,” and with few exceptions those concerned with controlling corruption have paid the issue little attention.
But for those seeking to curb government corruption, contract administration is anything but prosaic or unimportant. Once a firm has been awarded a contract to furnish goods, provide services, or build a building there are many ways it can cheat government: by delivering substandard goods, padding invoices or performing unneeded extra work to name. Zambia’s Auditor General found road construction companies had failed to provide the required cement, concrete, and gravel in all 18 roads projects it audited, meaning the roads will not last as long or carry as much traffic as the government contracted for. An IT firm New York City hired to computerize the city’s payroll system bilked it out of more than $600 million through inflated invoices and phantom extra work. In India a medical equipment manufacturer supplied neonatal equipment that exposed babies and hospital staff to electrical shocks.
The bad news is that these are just a few examples of the ways government can be cheated during the execution of a public contract. The good news is there are handful of steps governments can take to reduce if not eliminate corruption during contract performance. They are: Continue reading