Pope goes all out against corruption in the Vatican with new Holy See procurement law

Pope goes all out against corruption in the Vatican with new Holy See procurement law

(Source: CD/Vatican News)

Pope Francis has published an Apostolic Letter creating legislation to govern the awarding of the public contracts of the Holy See and Vatican City State, which shall follow the principles of transparency, centralised control, and competition to reduce the risk of corruption.

The Apostolic Letter in the form of a Motu Proprio released on Monday by pontiff is the result of four years of work carried out by several Vatican offices. The text will serve as a single reference point for awarding public contracts to external entities.

The Letter is entitled “On transparency, control and competition in the procedures for awarding public contracts of the Holy See and Vatican City State”. It is composed of 86 articles with an additional 12 relating to juridical protection in cases of litigation.

The piece of legislation is in conformity with the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, signed in Merida.

It replaces previous regulations in force at the Vatican ‘central bank’, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), and at the Governorate of Vatican City State. It extends to all entities of the Holy See which up until now lacked their own laws governing contracts and public works.

Like a good family father

“The diligence of a good family father”, writes Pope Francis, “is the general principal and of the utmost respect, on the basis of which all administrators are required to perform their functions”.

Good management of public goods, he adds, requires “faithful and honest administration”.

“The global economy and increased interdependence have brought to the fore the possibility of achieving significant cost savings through the work of multiple suppliers of goods and services”, the pontiff continues.

The new regulations, the Pope explains, are aimed at “fostering transparency, control and competition in the procedures for the awarding of public contracts stipulated on behalf of the Holy See and Vatican City State”.

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Companies and entities which supply goods, services, and public works will be guaranteed “equal treatment and the possibility of participation through a special Register” and special procedures, Francis writes.

On guard against corruption

The President of the Vatican Tribunal, Giuseppe Pignatone, says the new legislation incorporates internationally-recognised best practices, “in order to achieve significant cost savings, efficient resource management, and a renewed commitment against the risk of corruption”.

“The new norms are a warning to rediscover how important, and urgent, is a better management of resources”, according to Vincenzo Buonomo, Rector of the Pontifical Lateran University and professor of international law.

The purpose of the new norms

Article 1 explains the purpose of the new law, which is the sustainable use of internal funds, the transparency of award procedures, and the “equal treatment and non-discrimination of tenderers, in particular through measures to combat illegal competition agreements and corruption”.

Basic principles

Article 5 lists the fundamental principles of the new norms, which are founded on an ethicality “orienting the economic choices and the interlocutors upon parameters of respect for the Social Doctrine of the Church; administrative autonomy and subsidiarity in the management choices of the Body; [and] loyal collaboration between entities and the different sections of the Governorate”.

The goal is to obtain “cost savings, effectiveness, and efficiency” through the “planning and rationalisation of expenditure” while avoiding unnecessary operations, and in particular through an award procedure which “must be transparent, objective, and impartial”.

Avoiding conflicts of interest

Measures are to be taken under the new norms against conflicts of interest, illegal competition agreements and corruption.

These serve to avoid “any distortion of competition and ensure equal treatment of all economic operators”.

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Reasons for exclusion

Economic operators who become subject to investigation, preventative measures or convictions at the first instance for “participation in a criminal organisation, corruption, fraud [or] terrorist offences”, for “laundering of the proceeds of criminal activities”, and for “the exploitation of child labour” must be excluded from the Register and from participation in tenders.

Another of the causes for exclusion foreseen in the new norms is the failure to fulfill “obligations relating to the payment of taxes or social security contributions in accordance with the regulations of the country in which the operator is incorporated”, as well as residing or having settled in States “with preferential tax regimes”.


Except in certain cases established as exceptions, “all goods and services, under penalty of nullity of the relevant contract, are ordinarily acquired by the entities in a centralised manner”.

The “centralised authorities”, reads Article 15 of the new norms, include both APSA “in matters concerning the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia” and institutions connected to the Holy See, as well as the Governorate. There are exceptions to centralisation, but they must be duly justified.

Every six months, the Secretariat for the Economy, having consulted with APSA, will publish and update “the list of prices and the reference fees for goods and services”, together with the labour costs of the professionals registered in the Register.

These will take into consideration prices and fees in the markets from which Vatican institutions receive supplies. Vatican entities are required to plan their purchases by 31 October of each year.

Vatican employees on selection boards

The motu proprio also establishes a list at the Secretariat for Economic Affairs with the names of those employees and temporary professional appointees who are authorised to act as expert planners and members of the selection board. These members will be drawn by lot.

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They will rotate among the committees, but always in accordance with their specific professional qualifications.

A detailed list of “incompatible characteristics” for the task is laid out, among which is a familial relationship “up to the fourth degree” or affinity “up to the second degree” of a person who has submitted a bid.

Another disqualifying trait is if the person has been a member in the previous five years of an economic operator who has submitted a bid.

International rules

The new legislation promulgated by Pope Francis takes into account the fundamental principles and aims of Canon Law and the peculiar nature of the Vatican City State.

It is also a treasure trove of the rules and best practices in force in many States.

More stories on Novena on the financial situation of the Holy See:

Vatican puts into action in Switzerland promise of “rigour, clarity and sobriety” in finances

Vatican ‘Economy Minister’ denies rumours Holy See at risk of default

Vatican projecting coronavirus loss of up to 146 million euros: report


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Cameron Doody

Director and editor at Novena
PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. Lecturer in ethics at Loyola University Maryland, Alcalá de Henares (Spain) campus. Religion journalist with 4 years experience.