Public purchases in pandemic 2021: less transparency and direct purchases continue

After the publication in March of the results of the survey “Public purchases in pandemic: 2020, the year of direct contracting and the lack of transparency”, Red Ruido adds to the investigation the first quarter of the year 2021.

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Ruido is a federal network of communicators, specialists in open data and civil society organizations that was created to make visible issues of public interest related to the management of State resources, administrative transparency, corruption and access to information. From Fundeps we support its creation in an alliance Citizen Power and FOPEA.

In this new report, the question remains the same as in the first Noise survey: can citizens know how much the State paid for each product purchased to alleviate the pandemic?

The answer is not only the same —no—, but now it is worse: there was less information available to access data for the first quarter of 2021, in relation to what was surveyed in 2020. This is the main conclusion of the survey in 13 provinces of the country , plus the City of Buenos Aires and the Nation.

● 82.3% of the hires in the first quarter of 2021 were made directly, according to the Noise survey in 14 Argentine provinces.
● Fewer transactions were registered than last year and there was also less data available: the index of access to information worsened.
● In many joint purchases (those that include several products) it is impossible to detect how much each province paid for each item.
● Santa Cruz was added to the provinces without data.
● A record-breaking purchase of ethyl alcohol was detected in Chaco: 1,900 pesos per liter.

Tenders, missing
The survey of public purchases related to the pandemic during 2020 had detected that 92% of the operations had been carried out directly. That index improved a little, but it is still very high: 82.3%.

The Decree of Necessity and Urgency 260/2020 that President Alberto Fernández signed on March 12, 2020 established the public emergency in health matters due to Covid-19, so that the contracting of goods and services that are carried out in this framework can be processed by direct route.

More than a year passed and the time to plan prevention increased, but the use of this shortcut to hire was not reduced.

Among the provinces with almost 100% direct purchases and / or awards are Salta, Entre Ríos and Santiago del Estero, while Mendoza is responsible for the drop in this general average, since it used the mechanism of bidding, auctions and / or open competitions in 49% of purchases. It was the province with the greatest improvement in relation to 2020, when that figure was just 13%.

Access to information

If the level of access to information in the first Noise survey (purchases in 2020) is compared with that of the first quarter of 2021, the situation worsened.
According to the index prepared (in which 1 implies total public access to data and 4, no access), the general average of access to information in 2020 had been 2.3. But from January to March 2021, it fell 0.3 points to 2.6.

This is so because not only did the three provinces that keep secret data and do not respond to access requests (Tucumán, Salta and Santiago del Estero) remain the same, this time Santa Fe (provides negligible information) and Santa Cruz joined (He did not respond to any request for information).

Booze through the roof
In the case of the prices of chinstraps, ambulances and ethyl alcohol, in the first quarter of 2021 there were far fewer purchases of these products than in 2020.
Wide gaps in the prices paid for chinstraps were maintained, and there were no purchases of ambulances.

In the case of ethyl alcohol, the record paid for this element appears in a purchase from Chaco: 1,900 pesos per liter. This arises in a purchase made on March 30, 2021 (order number 1,865) from Ande Servicios SRL, for which units of 200 milliliters (at 70%) were purchased at 380 pesos, for a total of 91,200 pesos. The figure represents up to 10 times the market value.

It is not possible to have more details of this operation, since the province of Chaco did not respond to any request for access from Ruido.

The other element that appears in some surveys is the rapid test kits to detect the virus. There is a wide range of prices for the same product that goes from the 170 pesos that CABA paid, up to the 715 pesos spent by Mendoza.

Access the full report and the analysis of each province here.


Ruido survey authors:

Mariela Arias (Santa Cruz), María Ester Romero (Buenos Aires, Tierra del Fuego and CABA), Yamile González (Formosa), Gabriela Sánchez (Mendoza), Bárbara Maidana (Chaco and Sante Fe), Juan Manuel González (Córdoba), Natalia Buiatti (Entre Ríos), Gonzalo Guzmán (Transparent Jumps), Luis María Ruiz (Tucumán), Sol Minoldo, Julieta Fantini, Andrés Vázquez, Cristian Pérez, Sergio Carreras and Edgardo Litvinoff.
Graphics: Diego Forti. Network design: María Pía Reynoso. Networks: Daniela Reynoso. Development: Walter Kanqui.

Ruido Communication Channels:


More information:
Public procurement in a pandemic: a year of direct contracting and lack of transparency


Nina Sibilla, ninasibilla@fundeps.org