Hivos and ARTICLE 19 show countries’ readiness to open up public contracting

December 7, 2016

Open Contracting Data programme stresses need for citizen engagement

To ensure efficient and transparent public spending through its contracts, governments need to make strong commitments to open contracting. This involves draft legislation that guarantees public access to information on public contracts, disclosing contracting data and documents using the Open Contracting Data Standard, and providing feedback channels to foster strong engagement of citizens, civil society organisations and the private sector.

So concludes the extensive research by Hivos and ARTICLE 19’s Open Contracting Data programme conducted under the supervision of Open Contracting Partnership. Scoping studies in fifteen countries indicate the readiness of their governments and civil society actors to publish and use open contracting data and documents. The studies point out opportunities and challenges in making public contracting more efficient and transparent, and identify the needs and capacities of civil society to help translate available contracting data into actionable information.

Benefits of open contracting

Governments worldwide spend an estimated USD 9.5 trillion annually on public contracts, rendering public procurement highly vulnerable to corruption. By making data and documents throughout the process more open and transparent, governments can get better deals and save taxpayer money while providing quality infrastructure and services for their citizens.

Frequently, only limited information is publicly available on the entire contracting process, from the planning stage to implementation. It also tends to be complex and difficult to understand. Journalists, civil society organisations and others play an important role in analysing, contextualising and translating this information into tangible and relevant information for citizens.

Citizen engagement

The Hivos and ARTICLE 19 programme on Open Contracting Data, launched this year, aims to open up public contracting by active engagement of citizens who want to monitor public spending, so that the huge sums of money involved are spent honestly and efficiently, following the highest standards of transparency and integrity. It will be implemented in Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Indonesia, Philippines and Guatemala, in close cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and partners like the Open Contracting Partnership.

The programme supports independent journalists, activists, entrepreneurs, academics and civic watchdog organisations in their efforts to scrutinise contracting data and public revenue flows, use it in advocacy campaigns and translate it into meaningful information for all stakeholders to act upon. This way, citizens can gain insight into how governments and businesses obtain and spend (public) money and hold them to account. This will allow attentive governments, oversight authorities and companies to improve the integrity of the contracting process and engage more effectively in a fair competition in public contracting. In addition, the programme advocates for governments to proactively provide more and better quality data on public contracting for the public good.

OGP Summit 2016

From 7 to 9 December, government representatives and civil society organisations from all over the world are gathering in Paris for the fourth global summit of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). The OGP aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and use new technology to strengthen governance.

In a conversation with Hivos, OGP’s Chief Executive Officer Sanjay Pradhan emphasised that “to turn commitments into results, we need actions not just from government and private sector to disclose contracts, but also monitoring from civil society, media and parliaments. That’s why this programme on Open Contracting Data, which is focused on engaging citizens, is so important. Ultimately, we need multi-stakeholder coalitions of integrity to combat entrenched networks of corruption. OGP offers a platform for government, civil society and other stakeholders to come together to find collective courage to overcome formidable odds. In doing so, OGP can serve as the antidote to deep citizen distrust of government and elite capture, and closing civic space, by showing a more hopeful vision of open government.”