Public procurement reform angers data ombudsman

Lobsiger sees a stark contradiction in the bill about public procurement. Last year he said access to documents of the federal administration reached a record number Keystone

The government faces harsh criticism about its plans to block public and media access to documents about public procurement.

This content was published on February 17, 2017 - 12:23

The Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner said the bill, to be discussed by parliament at a later stage, would weaken current transparency rules.

“By undermining the principle of public access the stated aim in the amended law on transparency in administration would be turned upside down,” said Adrian Lobsiger.

Under the bill, it would be impossible to learn lessons about the government’s use of public procurement as was possible from questions raised in past cases uncovered by the media. These cases cost a lot of taxpayers’ money, the statement added.

Lobsiger also slams the government for making last-minute changes to its bill – changes that would be harder to detect since they came after the regular consultation procedure among parties and institutions.

In 2014, a high-profile case of suspected corruption involving officials in the economics ministry over contracts with IT companies came to light. The Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper described it as “the tip of the iceberg”.

Parliamentarians from the main political parties, as well as the anti-corruption organisation, Transparency International, have joined the criticism. Transparency International said the move "opened the floodgates to corruption".

Multi billion market

The cabinet on Thursday announced its bill to bring Swiss legislation on public procurement in line with regulations by the World Trade Organization, and to coordinate the effort with the cantonal authorities.

The bill would allow Swiss companies access to a potential international market of up to $100 billion (CHF100.2 billion), according to the government.

Public procurement in Switzerland has an estimated volume of CHF41 billion annually.

Critics point out that the last-minute change to the bill risks annulling years of efforts by the federal and cantonal authorities to agree a legal reform.

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