Cooking Budgets - A Satirical Collection of Recipes for Corruption

Johanna zum Felde and Bela Seeger of Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland

Oct 28, 2016

We at have frequently stressed the importance of open budget data as a disincentive to corruption. It is one of the core beliefs that motivates our work and gives it purpose. While much of our work goes into the creation of infrastructure around fiscal data and processes, the actual principle by which open budget data can serve as the aforementioned ingredient in the fight against corruption may not be obvious at first. J++, an agency for data-driven storytelling and consortium member of, has compiled a list with the most ‘delicious’ budget cooking recipes derived from a mutlitude of corruption cases involving public money.

Cooking Budgets is a satirical collection of ‘recipes’ that showcases the importance and potential of open and transparent budget data. As the headline states: ‘Have a job in a public administration? Want to make some cash on the side? Try these yummy recipes!’

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Public budget corruption takes many forms

The admittedly technically challenging nature of budget data can have an intimidating effect upon journalists that have not come in contact with the subject matter. A spreadsheet with 3000+ pages of transactions can indeed raise the question where to begin. The recipes fulfil an important purpose in this regard as they are meant to highlight the manifold ways in which budget data can - and has - been used to uncover scandalous cases of corruption, thereby directing journalists working with budget and spending data towards the hints to look for in budget information. In Western Europe, cases of plain bribery (a public servant asking for cash to perform an operation) are fairly rare. However, more complex cases of misuse of public funds are far more frequent, as can be seen from the book ‘A Clean House?’, where ‘sophisticated corruption’ is discussed in detail.

The range of recipes is deliciously varied: Whereas the only recipe needed for A Good Ol’ Bribe is a position in a public administration with direct contact to citizens, more complex cases like The Oil Banquet require a publicly-owned oil company and a ministerial position.

Besides listing ingredients the recipes include a step by step instruction of how to proceed. The Revolving Door for example requires to 1. Access a position of power within a public administration, 2. take decisions beneficial to the company that will hire you and 3. take your next job. Real live cases are part of every recipe and add just the right amount of spice. Here for example the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder pushed hard for the construction of the Russia-Germany Nord Stream pipeline just to become become chairman of the shareholders’ committee of Nord Stream after leaving office.

And for dessert?

A basics section further provides valuable background information about wealth, the public sector and accrual accounting. You are more than welcome to write or share a recipe. Contact Cooking Budgets to receive help to get started.