Holy See cuts corruption, centralises procurement and contracting

Centralising procurement procedures and contracting are among several measures the Vatican is establishing to cut waste, root out corruption and bring the Holy See’s finances into the 21st century.

Pope Francis approved new norms governing contract bids and procurement procedures in his latest effort to reform the Vatican’s finances.

The Vatican’s financial situation was reportedly ‘precarious’ before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and worsened during the lockdown period when the Holy See’s main income source, the Vatican Museums, were closed.

The Museums reopened Monday for the first time since March. They are looking at a significant shortfall this year as a result of the lockdown and the subsequent collapse of the tourism industry that provides a steady flow of visitors to the Sistine Chapel.

Besides the post-pandemic fallout, the Holy See is facing an embarrassing financial scandal involving a 150 million-euro investment in a London real estate venture. The venture allegedly fleeced the pope of millions of euros.

The Vatican’s new procurement reforms don’t address how the Holy See invests its assets. They emphasise, however, that the Vatican will be more selective in the contractors and companies with whom it does business.

The reforms call for a centralised list of businesses that can bid for Vatican contracts.

They also include the criteria of those that can be excluded from offering services to the Holy See: any company or individual in bankruptcy proceedings or under investigation or convicted of crimes such as fraud, mafia ties, tax evasion or corruption.

In addition, the reforms impose norms to avoid conflicts of interest among Vatican officials awarding contracts, as well as the companies bidding for them. They call for transparency in the procedures and lay out how contested bids and contracts can be adjudicated in the Vatican criminal tribunal.

The Vatican’s out-of-control spending first came to light during the 2012 VatiLeaks scandal. In this, leaked internal documents revealed that the Vatican City State had paid 550,000 euros for its 2009 life-sized Christmas Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square.

Since then, the Vatican has relied on donated or lower-cost Christmas scenes.

Spending and contracting has long been disorganized at the Holy See, with each of the Vatican congregations (ie departments) going its own way to find contractors without any organized competitive bidding procedures that would be expected for a public administration.

Even before the virus and resulting global economic slowdown, the Vatican was looking at a multi-million euro deficit for the foreseeable future, though officials denied it was at risk of default this year.


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