Tackling corruption in Malawi through Open Contracting standards

January 18, 2017

Open Contracting offers the government of Malawi the biggest hope in winning its war against corruption according to a new report by Hivos Southern Africa and Article 19. The report indicates that governments worldwide spend an estimated USD 9.5 trillion annually on public contracting and calls for the need to commit to open contracting standards for accountability.

The research released today explores the readiness of fifteen countries in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia to open up their public contracting for analysis, monitoring and scrutiny by journalists, activists and civil society organisations.

Other notable prerequisites for efficient and transparent public spending include legislation that recognises citizens’ right to access information on public contracts, the disclosure of contracting data and documents using the Open Contracting Data Standard, and strong engagement of citizens in open contracting. Another key finding is the need to ensure that civil society is able to operate without hindrance and serve as a social watchdog.

The release coincides with the 2016 Open Government Partnership Summit in Paris, highlighting open contracting as an essential solution to open government.  

The research commissioned by Hivos and ARTICLE 19 was conducted under the supervision of the Open Contracting Partnership. Scoping studies in 15 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

The process of public contracting presents high corruption risks. By making data and documents throughout the contracting process more open and transparent, governments can get better deals and save taxpayer money, and make sure that infrastructure like schools, roads and hospitals and services like health, education and clean drinking water are provided for citizens. Hivos and ARTICLE 19 launched a global programme on Open Contracting Data this year, which aims to open up public contracting through active engagement of citizens who want to monitor public spending, so that the huge sums of taxpayers’ money involved are spent honestly and efficiently.

Key recommendations from the report:

  • Publicly commit to open up data and information on public contracting and public procurement by default;
  • Disclose data that is accessible and usable, and consider implementing the Open Contracting Data Standard;
  • Recognize infomediaries as viable partners that can help to shape data disclosure policies;
  • Coordinate effectively with civil society and info-mediaries, who play an important role in making sure high-level political pledges are met and put into practice. See our synthesis report for the full list of recommendations.

“Open Contracting is an important aspect of Hivos’ reform agenda towards an open society. Efficient contracting processes lead to better value for money and better public service delivery. It thus contributes to the integrity of governments and to trust of citizens in their governments,” says Daniel Dietrich, Senior programme manager of the Open Contracting Data programme at Hivos.

“Access to information and data and effective civic engagement are key means of ensuring transparent public procurement and responsive and accountable government,” said David Banisar, Head of Transparency for ARTICLE 19, “They are both necessary to hold governments to account and ensure that all persons receive the essentials necessary for healthy lives.”