classifying public procurement14 Dec 2015
The Brazilian government often misclassifies the goods it buys. That makes it hard to audit government expenditures. We cannot know whether the price paid for a ballpoint pen (code #7510) was reasonable if the pen was misclassified as a technical drawing pen (code #6675) or as any other good. This paper shows how we can use machine learning to reduce misclassification. I trained a support vector machine (SVM) classifier that takes a product description as input and returns the most likely category codes as output. I trained the classifier using 20 million goods purchased by the Brazilian government between 1999-04-01 and 2015-04-02. In 83.3% of the cases the correct category code was one of the three most likely category codes identified by the classifier. I used the trained classifier to develop a web app that might help the government reduce misclassification. I open sourced the code on GitHub; anyone can use and modify it.