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Community Web Meeting: Exploring Civil Society Contract Monitoring for Open Contracting Data

31 May 2014

By Ana Brandusescu

Contracting has many stakeholders. They many have many different information and data needs in different settings and at different times. Use cases provide a way to identify particular users, and to describe their particular information and data needs.
Over the past few weeks we held two community web meetings on use cases pertaining to open contracting data. These demand-side meetings are meant to engage users to share their thoughts on the importance of open contracting process and more specifically open contracting data.

2nd Community Web Meeting: Exploring civil society contract monitoring use cases for Open Contracting Data

In the second community web meeting (May 30), we discussed how civil society organizations are currently using data on contracts, and how they could use data in future to identify key use cases for an open contracting data standard.

Civil society has an active role to play in holding governments accountable for public spending and effective service delivery. In many countries around the world, civil society organizations are actively monitoring public contracting and contractor performance – helping governments to avoid corruption, over spending, and to improve the quality of goods, works, and services ultimately delivered to communities. In order to do this work effectively, civil society needs access to contracting information, space to operate, and a mechanism by which to deliver feedback to decision makers and achieve results.

Presenters:

Seember Nyager (@seember1), Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), Nigeria
Eduardo Bohorquez (@ebohorquez), Transparencia Mexicana, Mexico
Ivan Begtin (@ibegtin), Informational Culture, Russia

Our first presenter is Seember Nyager, Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), Nigeria. In Nigeria there are many abandoned projects and white elephant projects. PPDC and the Procurement Observatory Portal had to start monitoring every single sector and monitoring platforms that handle issues such as bad electricity. There are a lot of government bodies investing money in the power sector but people have not yet reaped benefits from this invested. The PPDC is interested in the extractives (oil and gas) so there is a lot of concentration where revenue is generated and how it is being expended to provide public services. However, the problem keeps repeating itself. We hope to address monitoring stages in the contracting projects and get contractors to start speaking out (e.g., about social and cultural issues). Yet we should be careful to ensure protection for contractors, because they are around for long periods of time. The longevity in their work means that they will be able to continue a project in the long run.

Seember states that the “competition part, the bidding phase of the contract is most prone to abuse so the government must gather lots of data to be sure the contract is awarded to the right bidder”. It is important to answer the following questions: On what basis are they given contracts? How much contracts and the duration that the contracts are going for? In Nigeria, the answers to these have started to raise red flags.

Our second presenter, Eduardo Bohorquez (Transparencia Mexicana). “In Mexico, the challenge of gathering and organizing this information has started 20 years ago. This process is a major endeavour because organizing e-procurement has lacked a lot of commitment to enter relevant information required by law in the system, especially with an astounding 100,000 procurement processes per year. So it’s a challenge to gather this in an electronic repository. In addition, procurement laws are hard to reinforce and to let citizens know that they have the right to see the details of the procurement process. Public tenders were only public in mail and the procurement process was conducted in closed meetings. So in 2001, we reformed the law to give access the citizens. In 2002, to counter this challenge, we created the idea of a social witness to enter and access information through a very simple registration process.”

Our third presenter is Ivan Begtin (Informational Culture), Russia. He created the platform Clear Spending, which analyzes and combines information for suppliers and contracts. They are in the beginning phase of gathering information and are also building mobile applications. Ivan states that “in Russia, procurement data is easily accessible and is one of the biggest datasets available, however tender data quality is low.” He also believes that “Russian procurement is changing but the system still has significant challenges, where access and openness is not enough to overcome these challenges.” Ivan insists that the steps in the contracting system.

Comments:

In the procurement monitoring portal in Nigeria (PPDC), you can export reports in various formats. Increasing people’s participation is key. Seember believes that “a challenge in Nigeria is appropriation but no release.”

Ezequiel Gómez: How would you describe the outcome of your efforts, what developments have you now in place and how do you communicate and build on them to gain momentum in your country?

Eduardo Bohorquez: It is important to “require affecting policies for procurement and integrity in the procurement process; organize different communities from the education sectors and continue the gathering of data. We discovered one common review of the public procurement data was the market analysis; in a detailed analysis, we discovered that this was not a market analysis in real terms. The challenge is to move from data collection to data analysis as a strategic use of information. To get citizens to use our best capacities; to translate tech language to non-tech audiences. Mexico used Twitter to monitor real time of procurement process, even before the media had access to it. Local communities were tweeting back with concrete answers. It is also important to demand analysis of public procurement. The development of standards is important because we need strategic engagement with information; standards must be proactive, especially when differences in procurement systems between governments make it difficult to keep track of information, where a certain degree of harmonization is needed between federal and state level governments. This certain degree of harmonization could be achieved through making a standard like OCDS proactive”

Seember Nyager: We also have contractors now speaking on contracting problems and that presents opportunities to put forward the gains of information being proactively available. As part of our attempt to ensure that information is strategically engaged with and to build momentum, we have started to link facts gathered through data to compelling stories to motivate others to work.

Discussion Participants: Rafael Garcia Aceves, Norma Garza, Maira Martini, Helene Genest, Ezequiel Gomez, Jose Alonso, Daniel Dudis, Britta