Open Contracting is essential to make public contracting truly open. This includes a variety of contract types, from more basic contracts for the procurement of goods to complex contracts such as concessions, licenses, and public-private partnerships agreements.
One of the sectors most relevant for the work of Open Contracting is extractive industries. Natural resources contracts represent a country’s greatest sources of revenue. Nevertheless, extractives is one of the sectors most prone to fall victim to inefficiency, corruption and collusion.
More recently, the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows of the United Nation Economic Commission expressed its concern about the billions of dollars lost in Africa each year as result from unequal contracts ‘shrouded in secrecy’, most of them taking place in the extractives sector, and called for governments to ‘adopt best practices in open contracting’.
The Open Contracting approach for the extractives sector is to support greater transparency in oil, gas and mining contracts and licenses through the disclosure of contracting information and data, and to promote the use of contracting data for better monitoring of compliance from civil society.
Contributing to these efforts, the Open Contracting Partnership and the team working on the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) have advanced in their plan to extend the OCDS from procurement contracts to those related to the extractive industries and land sectors.
An important aspect of these extensions is that the OCDS seeks to complement, rather than to duplicate, other sector-specific transparency related initiatives. In that sense, the OCDS builds on existing efforts made by existing ‘open’ initiatives related to extractives like the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) that focuses on revenue transparency of member countries and recommends contract transparency in the oil, gas and mining sector.
In fact, since the extension of the Standard requires a number of adaptations that should be incorporated to the Version 1.0 of the OCDS, released in November 2014, most of those adaptations were based on the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Standard, which has been widely adopted and implemented by many governments like the United Kingdom, the Philippines and Nigeria, among others.
Although these extensions are not fully yet implemented, a report on the use cases and requirements of the sectors has already been published. The variety of cases include resources from organizations like the International Monetary Fund, the Natural Resource Governance Institute, the Revenue Development Foundation, ResourceContracts.org and OpenOil, as well as some in-country examples.
As part of the extension process, the Open Contracting Partnership has also encouraged feedback from the public and possible users on the use cases and requirements. This public consultation process reflects the Partnership’s model of collaborating with experts, data publishers and data users to develop a product that will best serve the needs of each subject.
The extension of the Open Contracting Data Standard to the extractive industries and land sectors, as well as its further adoption by governments, will help ensure that natural resources deals are aligned with the public interest, that national resources are managed efficiently and that citizens are able to access contract information that will help them oversight the contract implementation and results.