“Bosnian institutions and public companies last year launched tenders to procure 1,666 official vehicles, worth about 46 million euros, BIRN’s new database shows.”
This lede, which was published in January 2019 on BIRN’s flagship website, announced the publication of data on all funds spent on vehicles for government officials, institutions and public companies in one place.
The investigation and database offer a live, one-of-a-kind tool which ensures transparency of public spending. They have already proved to be a valuable anti-corruption tool, revealing that in 80 per cent of all tenders for vehicles, only one company applies for the procurement.
The impact of BIRN’s database has been multifaceted. During the course of its existence, various posts, tenders and articles published on the database were republished a total of more than 250 times by domestic and regional media – showing an immense interest in the content.
Along with direct users of the database, which numbered tens of thousands, the database also garnered significant amounts of posts on social media. In some instances, our posts on social media were reworked into articles by other media. One of our posts was about how we used the keyword “ISOFIX” in the database to reveal all the car purchases in which a child car seat was requested – in order to show that these cars will definitely be used for private purposes – and posted the link to the results on twitter. Our post simply provided the link to the database, in which 11 such cars with child seat requests were listed. Several media outlets then took this post and wrote long-form articles about the phenomenon.
Along with republications and our direct engagement with the general readership, a specific part of our audience was the Public Procurement Agency, which is in charge of the tenders, in order to stop illegal work.
As previously mentioned, we marked certain tenders with a RED FLAG. In dozens of cases, these tenders were amended after BIRN Bosnia wrote about them, or flagged them, or asked institutions questions about them. This is a very direct way in which BIRN’s work stopped potentially corrupt tenders, and saved public funds through ensuring the transparency of spending.
It becase for media in Bosnia and Herzegovine “only relevant source of information for Governments Officials Limos in BiH”, as quoted.
Both the Administration and the Presentation applications are hosted on Windows Server 2012. The applications are written in the C Sharp (C#) programming language and rely on Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 for the structured data content.
For the visual design and the front-end of both applications BIRN used:
– Bootstrap 4
– Material icons
– IBM Plex Sans Condensed
What was the hardest part of this project?
Ordinary citizens do not have full access to public procurement portal. In order to see all data you need to register. BIRN registered and downloaded all tenders throughout the year for vehicle purchases and updated them daily on the database, providing daily transparency on all public spending on vehicles.
In order to show the amount of money spent in general, and not just for one cost type, the database had two other subsections. First, the register of vehicles, which showed what vehicles a certain company or public institution already owns. The second subsection is the expenses part, which has information about other expenses related to cars – such as petrol, parking, repairs and insurance.
When a tender for purchasing a car is published, BIRN journalists first put it in the database. Then they search through the public procurement website for the latest tender for insurance – which each institution or public company signs at the start of the year, and in which this institution or company lists all the assets it wants to insure. In this document, BIRN journalists find data about all vehicles already owned and the estimated cost. All these cars are then put in the register section.
Finally, BIRN journalists go through the data for the entire year for all tenders for expenses related to cars for each institution and put them in the third subsection. When this is completed, a certain company or public institution which is buying new cars also has two other subsections in which citizens can see all other information which might interest them. They will see if the car is a luxury one or not, and how much money is being spent on repairs, washing, parking, petrol and insurance for each institution’s fleet of cars.
What can others learn from this project?
BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina’s database is the first live database published online in the country, one that is updated daily and in which data changes in real time. BIRN journalists each day insert the new tenders and decisions, which provides a high level of transparency about public spending.
Furthermore the database is the first completely connected database in Bosnia and Herzegovina in which all entities are linked and searchable. Each entity in the database has its own subpage and can be compared and linked to others. It allows a much deeper search option then other journalistic and official databases.
During our research, we did not find any similar database worldwide on official cars or vehicles. For the first time in Bosnia and Herzegovina, data from public procurement has been presented in a user-friendly way, creating a tool that can be used by other journalists and researchers for further research.
One other aspect of this database is its goal to make public procurements more transparent by publishing documents otherwise only available to private companies that are registered with the official public procurement portal.
Finally, the database also seeks to maximise the impact of BIRN’s investigative work, by having a dedicated space for articles and investigations about the public procurement of vehicles. A video section is also included in which BIRN journalists used mobile journalism techniques to create shorter videos for social media to further boost impact.