Blog

New guidance for including the OCDS in electronic procurement projects

18 Jul 2018

By Lindsey Marchessault and Chris Smith

A growing number of governments are managing public procurement with the help of electronic government procurement (e-GP) systems. Over the last 15 years, e-GP has become an intrinsic part of wider e-government programmes to digitize the way government interacts with its citizens. These systems provide a great opportunity to “bake in” OCDS publication right from the start, so that publication can be automated.  

Public procurement faces many challenges including inefficiency, waste and non-compliance with procurement laws and regulations, as well as the ever-present risks of corruption and a lack of transparency and accountability. e-GP systems can be useful for managing procurement planning, the tendering process, and contract management and can improve compliance, efficiency and deliver significant savings. But up until now, they have been designed primarily to manage workflow, rather than to evaluate performance. As a result, he structure of the database has been an afterthought, as has the generation of standardized information for analysis and monitoring of procurement outcomes.

The database within e-GP systems can, nonetheless, be an enormously valuable source of information for a wide variety of uses and enable real-time analysis and monitoring of public procurement performance indicators, from ‘red flag’ detection to the efficiency of the procurement process. e-GP can enable timely publication of open data according to the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS), a global best practice schema that guides governments what information to publish.

Over the past few years, we at the OCP and our helpdesk have provided advice and recommendations to e-GP project teams and developers around the world on how to map e-GP databases to OCDS and how to develop OCDS publication and analytics. Now, more than 30 governments are implementing the data standard. With that experience in mind, we’ve put together specific guidance for anyone who is looking to acquire or upgrade an existing e-GP system to publish OCDS and generate analysis from all stages of the contracting process (from planning to implementation).

Review our draft guidance for including OCDS in Electronic Procurement Projects here.

Most e-GP systems currently in use focus on the tendering stage of the contracting process. But there’s a global trend towards acquiring new end-to-end systems that cover the full procurement cycle, which presents an exciting new opportunity to capture and publish much more open contracting data.

For example, in Ukraine, the ProZorro e-GP system was developed using the OCDS as the basis of its internal model and enables publication of its open data. The system empowers users to search and review almost all information related to a particular contracting process, including signed contracts and contract changes (see example). The ProZorro team has also developed a business intelligence portal tracking and visualizing key performance indicators for the entire public procurement system. You can read more about the impacts of the ProZorro open contracting procurement reform here.

In Zambia, the Zambian Public Procurement Authority has recently rolled out a new e-GP system that publishes OCDS data and monitoring reports derived therefrom, including a breakdown of canceled tenders by procuring entity, amendments per contract, cost overruns etc.

If governments include OCDS requirements in their specifications for e-GP systems, it will incentivize e-GP providers to develop products that will enable OCDS publication and to review structures of their internal databases to ensure good use of identifiers and classifications in line with OCDS requirements.

Our draft guidance (here) includes a three-part template to help stakeholders develop their OCDS functional requirements when purchasing a new e-GP system or upgrading the functionality of an existing e-GP system:

Section of e-GP OCDS template Purpose
Section A. Request for bidder’s track record and their proposed methodology for implementing Open Contracting and OCDS
  1. Establishes what experience the e-GP bidder has with OCDS and explains how they would approach implementing e-GP with it included.
  2. Gives the purchaser of the e-GP system information to evaluate both experience and approach, possibly allocating technical points for both.
Section B. General functional requirements – Open Contracting and OCDS
  1. Explains in general terms the requirement and concepts of open contracting (OC) and OCDS.
  2. Provides e-GP vendors with links to a wide range of online resources explaining OC and OCDS.
Section C. Detailed functional requirements – Open Contracting and OCDS
  1. Provides a detailed draft list of 12 functional OC and OCDS requirements that the e-GP system should fulfill.
  2. The purchaser of the e-GP system can review the draft list and amend as necessary and can consider allocating technical points for each of the functional requirements.
  3. The purchaser can request tenderers to indicate in their bids whether the e-GP system offered meets or does not meet each of the functional requirements to assist the purchaser with evaluation.

We have left the document open for comments so please let us know if you have any feedback. Let us know if you’re exploring the use of the Open Contracting Data Standard. We’re there to help. If you have questions or require implementation support, please do not hesitate to contact us at data@open-contracting.org.