PACS Standard 15 forms part of GIACC’s Project Anti-Corruption System (PACS), which comprises 15 PACS Standards (see links at foot of this webpage).
This PACS Standard 15 applies to any Project which is wholly or partly owned, funded or guaranteed by the public sector.
The Project Owner of a wholly private sector Project may choose to be subject to PACS Standard 15.
The Project Owner should promptly publish information in relation to the Project on a freely accessible public website, as specified in paragraphs 1 to 16 below.
The information published by the Project Owner should be complete, comprehensive, up-to-date and intelligible.
Full information should be published, save to the extent that restricted publication is necessary to protect:
The timing of publication should be determined in accordance with the following guidelines:
In addition to the obligation to publish the information specified in paragraphs 1 to 16 below, the Project Owner should be obliged to provide, within a reasonable period, any further information or documents reasonably requested by the public regarding any matter relating to the Project.
Paragraphs 1 to 16 below list the categories and types of information which should be disclosed by the Project Owner on a public website in relation to the Project.
The use of the term “original” below means as at contract commencement, and “final” means as at contract completion.
Corruption on infrastructure projects can include bribery, extortion, fraud, collusion, embezzlement, money-laundering, or any similar activity. It can take place during all the different phases of an infrastructure project, including project selection, planning, design, land acquisition, procurement, project execution, and operation and maintenance. It can involve any of the project participants, including government, project owner, contractor, consulting engineer, joint venture partner, agent, funder, sub-contractor and supplier. It can take place at all links of the contractual chain, from the smallest sub-contract or supply contract at the bottom of the contractual chain, right the way up to main contractor, funder, project owner, and government level.
In view of its complexity, corruption on infrastructure projects is difficult to prevent and to detect.
Secrecy and concealment of information encourage corrupt activity and also make it more difficult to detect. Greater transparency on public sector projects will materially help to reduce corruption as project information will be made widely available, and will therefore be subject to greater independent scrutiny. As a result, it will increase the likelihood that corruption will be discovered, and will discourage corrupt activity because the potential perpetrators will be aware that there is a greater chance that any corruption will be discovered.
Greater transparency will also help to reassure the public that the project is being conducted properly.
Therefore, PACS Standard 15 requires, in the case of any Project which is wholly or partly owned, funded or guaranteed by the public sector, that there should be prompt and comprehensive disclosure by the Project Owner on a public website of information in relation to the project.
In most countries, there is currently very little information provided to the public regarding individual projects. In some cases, there may be information on the objective of the project, the estimated cost and the selected contractor(s). However, there is usually little information regarding the details of the project selection process; method of project funding; project design; procurement process; terms of contract(s); original contract price, programme and specification; final contract price, programme and specification; variations and claims paid; and the final overall project cost with a detailed explanation of the reasons for any escalation.
No, it usually does not. Freedom of information legislation varies from country to country, but it normally permits members of the public to be provided with information only if a specific request has been made for this information. Consequently, it results in piecemeal disclosure of some information only to those members of the public that have made the request. It may also result in disclosure being slow, and information emerging too late to be of any use. It also means that a member of the public will need to know that a document actually exists before it can be requested. In many cases, requests for disclosure can be refused on varied grounds, and the documents disclosed may have content redacted. This does not constitute adequate transparency.
The Project Owner is likely to be the most appropriate party to be responsible for disclosing the information in relation to a particular Project. This would involve ensuring that the relevant mechanism is set up for making the disclosures on an appropriate public website, and for ensuring that other Project participants are contractually bound to co-operate in providing necessary information for disclosure (see PACS Standard 4).
As PACS Standard 15 requires that the Project Owner should be responsible for disclosure on its Projects, the Project Owner is likely to bear the cost. The cost is unlikely to be unmanageable. Virtually all Project data is produced, copied and transmitted between Project participants electronically, and it is not particularly difficult or expensive to load this data onto a website. Alternatively, the cost of the publication could be borne by the government, as the disclosure is in relation to public sector projects.
Ideally, there should be disclosure to the public in relation to all public sector projects. This would, however, result in disclosure for a very large number of projects, and this may be unmanageable and disproportionate if full disclosure on low value projects was required.
The process could be kept within manageable proportions by ensuring that the degree of information disclosed for each project is proportionate to the size, value and importance of the project. This would involve setting project cost thresholds, and then setting levels of disclosure that should be made within those thresholds. Small projects may require a limited amount of disclosure. Large projects should require full disclosure.
PACS is designed to apply to large projects over a reasonable value threshold, and therefore the disclosure required by PACS is full disclosure.
Project thresholds should be set according to estimated project cost. The estimated project cost will need to be used because transparency should be provided at the outset of the project and, at that stage, only the estimated cost will be available.
Project costs thresholds are likely to differ from country to country due to the wide variation in national wealth and project costs. Consequently, setting these thresholds will be a matter for the relevant organisation (e.g. government or regulator) that is requiring transparency to be provided.
As stated in G1 above, corruption can take place in any project phase, can involve any of the project participants, and can involve different types of corruption.
Such corruption may result in:
Consequently, there should be disclosure of key information in relation to all project phases, and all key project participants.
In order to keep the disclosures manageable, reasonable and proportionate, PACS Standard 15 recommends specific categories of disclosure in relation to major decisions, Major Project Contracts, Major Project Sub-contracts, and smaller Project Contracts as listed in paragraphs 1 to 15 of PACS Standard 15. The extent of required disclosure is more limited in the case of smaller Project Contracts.
Some examples of the benefits of disclosure of this information are as follows:
Disclosure of information should be provided for the duration of the Project. Disclosure should if possible commence when the Project is being considered for selection (as the whole purpose of the Project, or selection of Project type or location can be corrupt), and should only terminate once the Project is complete (as corruption can continue right the way through construction, operation and maintenance).
If there are issues which are of public interest (for example, court or arbitration judgements relating to project disputes, or criminal convictions of individuals or organisations consequent on their actions in relation to the Project), then information relating to these issues should be disclosed even if this takes place after Project completion.
This will depend on the size and timescale of the Project. Disclosures should be made as soon as reasonably possible and so as to enable preventive action to be taken, or remedial action to be taken where the corruption has already occurred. Where possible, disclosure should be linked to key stages of the Project so that material information relating to a particular stage is disclosed at regular intervals during that stage or, if the stage is short, on completion of that stage.
The information should be disclosed on a freely available and easy to use public website.
The Major Suppliers and Major Sub-suppliers are the Project participants (contractor, consultant, supplier, agent or funder) whose role in the Project could result in significant corruption due to the high value of their Project Contracts. The Project Owner can set the threshold at which a participant becomes a Major Supplier or Major Sub-supplier for the purposes of full disclosure. The PACS Standards, in the Definitions section, suggest that a Major Supplier or Major Sub-supplier is one which has a Project Contract with a value in excess of the equivalent of US$1 million. This includes participants which have a contract with the Project Owner, and participants which have a contract of this size down the contractual structure. For example, the Project Owner could place a contract with a contractor for $5 million, and the contractor could then place a contract with a sub-contractor for $1.5 million (in which case both the contractor and the sub-contractor will need to provide full disclosure for publication on the Project website).
Each Major Supplier and Major Sub-supplier should agree to a contractual obligation that they:
This contractual obligation is contained in PACS Standard 4.
The first priority of transparency is to publish the information, promptly and in full, to the public. Disclosure of information on a website is relatively cheap and easy. Most contract information is now prepared and kept in electronic form and can be downloaded onto a website.
The second priority is to ensure as far as possible that the published information is accurate. To have someone independent verify the accuracy of all the recommended information in paragraphs 1 to 15 of PACS Standard 15 is likely to be too difficult and expensive. If publication had to await its verification, then this may slow down or restrict the provision of information, and therefore defeat the purpose of full and prompt publication.
It is therefore suggested that the best compromise solution is to publish all information promptly and in full, without need for prior independent verification. The accuracy of the disclosed information could then be challenged and verified in the following ways:
If the error is reported and is not rectified, and suggests corruption, the error can further be reported by other Project participants or the public to the press, or to the law enforcement authorities.
Some of the information disclosed may be difficult to understand for some members of the public. However, the public is made up of a wide range of people with diverse interests and skills. It will include engineers, contractors, lawyers, accountants, and members of the public who may be directly affected by the particular Project. Therefore, the Project information disclosed will be capable of being understood by those with the relevant skills.
The risk of simplification is that much valuable information may be lost in the process. It may also allow for important details to be concealed on the pretext that the intention was to simplify the material for disclosure.
Simplification is also in itself an expensive process, as someone needs to be appointed to undertake the simplification.
The simplification process may also be time consuming, and therefore delay the publication of information, which may in turn prevent corruption being discovered in time to prevent it.
Prompt and full disclosure is therefore preferable, even if it is complicated. There are likely to be sufficient members of the public with the expertise to be able to understand it.
In most cases, there should not be significant commercial confidentiality concerns in relation to the Project information which is disclosed. Where there are any confidentiality concerns, these will normally be overridden by the public interest. A person having building works undertaken on her/his private home is entitled to see the full design and pricing of the works, as it is her/his money which is paying for the works. Similarly, on a public sector project, it is the public’s money being used to pay for the project. Therefore, the public should be entitled to see the same details in relation to the project which the private house owner would expect.
The claim of “confidentiality” is often falsely used as a convenient excuse by parties who do not want their activities to be disclosed. If Suppliers do not wish to disclose their beneficial ownership, pricing, contract terms etc, then they should not undertake public sector work.
There may be some very limited cases where disclosure could be temporarily or permanently restricted. For example:
However, most information is not confidential. In particular, details on the matters listed in paragraphs 1 to 15 of PACS Standard 15 are highly unlikely to be confidential.
This will depend on the circumstances of the case. The member of the public may decide to report her/his suspicions to the Project Owner, using the Project reporting system (PACS Standard 13). Alternatively, or in addition, the member of the public could report the suspicions direct to:
Whether or not the member of the public reports to the above persons, or makes any report at all, will depend on her/his own perception of the reliability and integrity of those persons and of the risks she/he may be taking in making a report.
The person reporting should always take care not to make a report in such a way as to put herself/himself or another person in any danger, or to be liable for defamation.
It is impossible to calculate with certainty whether or not the above recommended transparency will be cost effective. Will it save more money in preventing or revealing corrupt practices than the cost of making the necessary disclosures? As corruption is hidden, the actual cost of corruption cannot be calculated and nor, therefore, can one calculate the savings in corruption cost which may be achieved by requiring greater transparency.
However, for the reasons stated in G1 above, and considering the examples given in G8 above, it is likely that greater transparency will be a significant corruption deterrent and will result in corruption being more easily exposed.
Most Project data will already exist in electronic form, so it should be relatively quick and easy to load this onto a website. In addition, once the technology is developed for providing transparency, and once disclosure becomes a matter of routine, the cost of the process should diminish.
it is therefore reasonable to assume that setting up the required website, and providing disclosure of material Project information on a regular basis, is likely to be a highly cost effective investment.
There is no guarantee that public disclosure of Project information will uncover any or all corrupt activities. Some bribes or corrupt activities may be too well hidden. The particular disclosure process or material chosen for disclosure may be inadequate. There may be insufficient scrutiny by the public. The information disclosed may have been falsified. However, the very fact that Project material is to be disclosed will be a major deterrent, and is therefore likely to result in a material reduction in corrupt activities. There is also a significant chance that greater transparency will uncover any corrupt activities which take place.
PS 15: Transparency
Updated on 1st November 2021