The COVID-19 pandemic has put public procurement in the spotlight like never before. The world has seen how hospitals, cities, regions, and different parts of government compete against each other for limited amounts of vital personal protective equipment (PPE) and medicines. Abuse of emergency procedures has been widespread. These failures of public procurement are still costing lives and are hurting poor communities and underrepresented groups the most.


Public procurement is the biggest marketplace on earth, accounting for one in every three dollars spent by governments – some 10+ trillion US-Dollar of spending every year, or around 15% of the global gross domestic product (GDP). It is the bricks and mortar of public benefit, and how governments at all levels buy and deliver medicines, roads, and economic opportunities to their citizens. Yet in many countries, procurement is still a paper-based, compliance-driven chore that is perceived as slow, costly and inefficient. Procurement reforms are complex, making support by development partners more difficult because entry points can be harder to identify.


Sustainable public procurement is a strategic factor for getting the Recover Forward incentives right. The European Commission defines it as “a process by which public authorities seek to achieve the appropriate balance between the three pillars of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental – when procuring goods, services or works at all stages of the project”.


40% LIDC

Low Income Developing Countries

27% EMs

Emerging Market Economies

13% AEs

Advanced Economies

Inefficient public procurement and infrastructure spending erode public trust and undermine the COVID-19 recovery. According to an analysis by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic, the average country loses about 30% of its investment returns due to inefficiencies in public investment management. The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated large-scale borrowing to finance many critical fiscal support measures. However, the scale and speed at which these measures were introduced created considerable potential for the diversion and misuse of funds. Public investment management (including procurement) must ensure that financing turns to more productive investments that allow for a green, resilient and inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and other current crises.