The risk of corruption in Belgium’s public procurement sector is moderate to high, with the recent court cases suggesting that the effect of corruption is visible in the public procurement sector. Some government officials are involved in awarding public contracts and licenses by taking bribes and irregular payments. The ratio of taking bribes and abuse of office in some agencies are up to a third of public officials.
So, what is the main factor responsible for the abuse of power by public officials?
If we narrow it down to just one factor that is contributing the most to abuse of office by public officials, it will be the lack of transparency in the procurement process.
The Belgium government is involved in giving public procurement contracts without consideration of merit and based on either personal relation with specific organizations or favoring specific organizations by accepting bribes.
An estimate of 4 billion EUR in public procurement is lost to corruption every year in Belgium, this amounts to 25 percent of overall public procurement.
So, the question here is, why the Belgium government has not been able to utilize the public procurement funds properly and why there is so much corruption among civil servants and public office holders?
The answer to this is “Lack of Accountability”. Government officials think that they can get away with anything and they will never face any accountability at all and with this behavior, many of the public office holders have stopped working for the goodwill of their country and have started working to fulfill their agenda.
So how the lack of accountability issue can be addressed?
As mentioned earlier, transparency is the key to address all such issues. The government should not be allowed to finalize business deals involving public procurement contracts behind closed doors. Citizens of Belgium must have the right to remain informed about all the details of public procurement deals and the right to object to any deal they believe is not established on merit.
A recent example of such a deal is the plan to exclude some 5G equipment suppliers. This exclusion is based on a High-Risk Vendor list, that is being prepared by the Intelligence agencies of Belgium and was kept as a secret. This whole process is acknowledged as a Blackbox Operation by the Belgian government because of political pressure by the US. As the US incapable of providing advanced 5G equipment at a low cost so they want to kill the market competition.
If you talk about the long-term implications of blacklisting certain potential 5G Suppliers from participation in building 5G infrastructure in Belgium, then by eliminating the market competition, the government will have no choice to buy from the remaining 5G Suppliers and therefore will have no option to negotiate for better prices.
High Cost 5G Equipment will be bought from the taxpayer’s money and in turn, would be devastating for the economy.
If there are any security concerns of allowing some 5G equipment suppliers to do business with Belgium, then those risks must be presented before the people of Belgium. However, if the government fails to identify and expose the risks of deploying 5G equipment by banning some 5G suppliers then there can only be one explanation for this move: “U.S Pressure”.
The plan of excluding certain 5G equipment suppliers by the government of Belgium can only be seen as a move to please the United States. This does not only go against Belgium’s national policy but also goes against the EU trade policy.
There is still time for the Belgium government to fix the issue of corruption in the Public Procurement office if it adopts the process of Transparency and puts a full stop to closed-door decisions.