The Central Register of Contracts (CRS) is a web portal operated by the Office of the Government of the Slovak Republic in which contracts concluded by the Slovak state are published. In Slovakia, it is mandatory to disclose any contract in which at least one party is a ministry, other government body, public institution, public-benefit corporation established by a government body, or a contributory organization. Contracts are published in the CRS by so-called obliged entities:
legal entities and individuals required by law to make decisions about the rights and obligations of individuals or legal entities in the area of public administration (e.g. private schools);
legal entities established by law (i.e. public institutions, such as the Social Insurance Agency and other legal entities established by law, e.g. the National Property Fund);
legal entities established by state authorities;
legal entities established by obliged entities.
Description of target users and groups
How it works for users
The system is simple. If you need to search for a contract you can visit the website, where you will find a form that allows you to select a vendor name, name of the contract, type of the department, name of the customer, vendor identification number, or a contract number. Select the items you know – e.g. the name of the supplier and the department. Click the Search button to display a list of contracts for a particular name. Choose the name you need, click on it, and all the information about the contract – name, date, description, attachment (PDF), and price performance – will be displayed.
Every citizen can look at any contract entered into by the state. The system works like this: the state publishes a contract in the CRS, municipalities and other organizations post it on their websites, and small villages include it in their commercial bulletins. So, all a user has to do is look at a specific organization that has concluded a contract with a state authority, find the contract, and read it.
Description of the way to implement the initiative
The beginnings of the project
The central online register of government contracts was launched in Slovakia on 1 January 2011 during the term of Prime Minister Iveta Radicova. Every contract entered into by the state only comes into effect when it is published on the Internet in the register of contracts. By law, contracts take effect on the day following their publication in the CRS. Almost 800 offices and businesses publish their contracts in the Slovak central register, and a little over 800,000 contracts had been published by the end of March 2015. The cost of implementing the register amounted to approximately EUR 37,000.
Public interest in the register was not very high in the first year (2011) of its operation. According to data from a working paper by Transparency International SR, the daily number of unique visitors was around 600. In total, 110,000 contracts were registered in the CRS during the first year of its operation, and the Slovak Minister of Justice Lucia Žitňanská (Slovak Democratic and Christian Union – Democratic Party) deemed it a great success.
Technical support is provided by the Office of the Government of the Slovak Republic as operator of the website. The Office operates the application on its own servers and ensures its security, along with monitoring, development, management of data from the various departments, technical support for departments with regard to the publishing of contracts, and technical support for solutions linking departmental applications to the Central Register of Contracts. Site content and the information in contracts are the responsibility of the individual departments. All pages contain information about the department publishing the information, and the date when the information was published.
Main results, benefits and impacts
CRS success stories in Slovakia
Both the law and the register have proven to be successful. The procurement costs of public orders fell by almost one third in the very first year of the register’s operation due to reduced financial mismanagement.
“Following the first year of the register’s operation, savings in public finances amounted to an average of 30 percent of costs. There were also some areas – for example, the transport sector – where the savings reached 50 percent,” said former Slovak Prime Minister Iveta Radičová.
“The Office of the Government alone saved EUR 3.5 million in the first year of the register’s operation. The publication of a contract also prevented an overpriced purchase of flowers for EUR 9 million at the Ministry of Education,” Radičová said.
Thanks to mandatory registration on an openly accessible website, an error came to light in a contract with a company that was to handle public procurement for the Office of the Government. This error gave the company the right to charge the astronomical hourly rate of EUR 11,300. Other effects of the CRS include:
Financial savings – 30% in the first year of operation.
Fewer tenders awarded without publication in which the contracting authority directly invites one or more candidates to negotiate. (These contracts are considered highly corrupt and unfavourable to the state.) Today, almost 80 percent of all orders are subject to competitions in Slovakia.
The register has been praised by NGOs as well. “It is the strongest anti-corruption measure of the former government. It has a strong preventative effect on officials thanks to the publication of contracts and to its automatic character,” said the director of the Slovak branch of Transparency International Gabriel Šípošin in an interview about the registry for the Sme.sk server.
Increased numbers of applicants for public tenders = higher quality of products and services.
Conditions for publishing contracts
When an obliged entity discloses a contract in the CRS, it is no longer required to publish it on its website. If both parties are obliged to publish the contract in the CRS, then they must both do it, and the contract is binding from its first publication. This means that the contract comes into effect on the day following the date of its first publication in the CRS.
In the event that no timely publication of a contract takes place (within three months of its conclusion), the contract does not come into effect, and it is as if it has never been concluded.
In some cases, it is required that certain items in contracts are not disclosed, and the obliged entity or the party submitting the proposal for the publication of the contract should ensure that legally classified information in contracts is not disclosed. This applies to classified information, information that is subject to tax secrecy, information regarding individuals and the protection of individual privacy, and the personal data of individuals.
However, even information designated as confidential in contracts must be disclosed. In contrast, there is no need to disclose other parts of published contracts, such as technical patterns, instructions, drawings, project documentation, models, methods of calculating unit prices, designs, and general terms and conditions (but links must be supplied to the omitted parts of the content).
Examples from real life
The OtvoreneZmluvy.sk (open contracts) website has been in existence since 2011. It mirrors the content of the official CRS website. This made it possible to uncover cases of post-facto modifications of contracts in the register. The operators of the website then request the publication of revisions of individual contracts.
An order for printer toner cartridges for EUR 3.7 million has been shown to be grossly overpriced when compared to similar cases.
The Transport Authority in the town of Košice has proven to be a transparent contracting authority when analysed by Transparency International. The data for the analysis came mostly from the CRS.
Senior managers in the public administration do not publish their CVs and receive “golden parachutes” – there is a request for the disclosure of information about who controls which state company or municipal business, what is their education, skills, and work experience.