Corruption is a feature, not a bug

Is it possible that Covid-19 was used as an excuse to accelerate corruption?

Corruption risk in Hungarian public procurement reached its highest level since 2005 during the Covid-19 emergency rule, according to a new report published by the Corruption Research Centre Budapest (CRCB). The biggest winner is Orbán’s alleged front and business alterego.

In many ways, politicians have been doing what they always had during the Covid-19 situation – only more forcefully. And who could blame them: There was (and there still is) no reliable data on the nature of the disease – so why not use the opportunity what the opportunities can be used for?

Those who were busy getting elected got even busier campaigning. Those who were busy eliminating independent media or NGOs got even busier with corona-excuse. Those who have always been eager to eliminate society’s immune system through surveillance went into the highest gear on record. And so did crony-feeding through public tenders (i.e. corruption risk) in Hungary.

According to a new report published by the Corruption Research Centre Budapest (CRCB) corruption risk in Hungarian public procurement reached its highest level since 2005 during the Covid-19 emergency rule. The biggest winner is Orbán’s alleged front and business alterego.

41% of public contracts were granted to pro-government companies without competition.

CRCB analyzed more than 248 thousand Hungarian procurement contracts between January 2005 and the end of April 2020, so he dataset starts five years before Orbán returned to power and includes a comparison with corruption (risk) under the previous regime. It appears that those were humble choirboys compared to Orbán’s infamous NER (the Orbán-made system of tender winners who also got a boost from EU money) as the share of public procurement contracts won by crony companies within the total public procurement value has increased significantly since 2011.

They follow a list of all crony companies that are owned by the same group of people – fronts and family of Orbán, including his son-in-law.

Before 2020, 51% of all public contracts these crony companies won were without competition.

In 2020 68% of their winnings was without competition.

And the amount distributed by these means has also been skyrocketing – one can’t recall a day when sport, church, stadiums, sport, sport, cronies, sport, cronies, cronies weren’t given some more money. (But never healthcare.)

Not surprisingly the number of blatantly competition-less contracts (gently) decrease during times of increased public and institutional attention by the EU. Such as during the months preceding the 2013 and the 2018 parliamentary elections, when hardly any contracts were won by these companies without competition. (They still won, but there appeared to be someone else trying.) The share of EU tenders won by the crony companies without competition was also reduced after the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) started its investigation in 2016.

It is actually surprising, wasn’t at all obvious from perception.

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