Inspiration on our road to even more impact in 2019

9 Jan 2019

By Gavin Hayman

It’s a long way to impact but we making progress…

Public contracts never stop and neither do we. [In fact, the holiday season is prone to shady deals, as we’ve pointed out in our Idiot’s Guide to Looting Public Procurement, one of our most successful publications last year.]

We finished 2018 taking stock of the impacts from our first four years and hearing from our many super-smart partners on how we can get to even more impact in the future. And we’ve worked hard on our new strategy to transform the world’s largest marketplace with openness, data, and feedback.  

On one level, we are pretty chuffed. From absolutely nowhere, open contracting is now at the cutting-edge of digital, responsive, open government. Open contracting offers potential savings of millions of dollars and improved public governance if done right and if integrated into long-term systemic reforms.  

Pick up and engagement has been much faster than we expected. There are nominal commitments to open contracting with more than 40 countries and cities globally, more than doubling what we expected, and the field of innovation and engagement on open contracting has increased more than ten times.

We doubled all our organizational targets two years into our strategy and met them all. Except for one. We set a target of supporting five systemic impacts from open contracting and we only achieved three. Those three are great stories from Ukraine’s Prozorro reforms, school meals getting fixed for 700,000 children in Bogota, Colombia and systemic accountability and fixes in Paraguay thanks to mass civic action. But open contracting isn’t yet being integrated regularly into systemic long-term reforms.

Our new strategy will focus firmly on this (you can see the shifts we plan to make here). To kick 2019 off, we are going to start sharing some inspiration for that journey. We are focussing on the green shoots of systemic reforms elsewhere, the stepping stones to wider impacts if reforms are scaled up as we hope that they will be.  

Over the coming month, we will publish five stories that show how open contracting can be used to solve specific social problems and/or seized on by different actors to drive improved government accountability and systemic changes.

  • In Paraguay, we will hear from student activists from Ciudad del Este who have been using open contracting data and active campaigning to chase funding for critical repairs for neglected schools, leading to a dramatically fairer distribution of funds for school facilities over the last three years.
  • In Uganda, we highlight how collaboration between civil society and the government’s procurement agency can increase access to contracting information, designed with users in mind, and improve internal processes and efficiency even in a difficult political environment.
  • We will hear from Chile how a civil society organization is using open contracting data to scrutinize competition in procurement and taking its finding to the procurement agency ChileCompra to track red flags and set common reform goals through a new data committee.
  • In Nigeria, we are starting to see fixes in schools and primary health care centers after a long campaign by civil society to increase access to information on public contracts through the Budeshi program. Also, the government’s own efforts are shaping up; with the procurement agency training the first of 700 agencies to publish their contracting information proactively on its open contracting portal.
  • Improving public infrastructure is at the core of the story from Honduras, where our partners at CoST have worked with citizen monitors, industry associations and other stakeholders to assess the quality of public infrastructure by drastically increasing the availability of project and contract data through a dedicated citizen monitoring platform promoting active feedback. This experience is now being adopted across other CoST programs globally and results are shaping how infrastructure is being managed including the restructuring of underperforming agencies and the introduction of more stringent procurement regulations.

This is only the start of an explosion of activity in 2019. We have our work on open contracting and infrastructure, work on economic empowerment of women- and minority-owned businesses, collaboration with US cities, like Los Angeles and Philadelphia with the Sunlight Foundation, multiple innovations across Europe (France, Portugal etc) and are excited about a wave of new engagement in Asia from Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Lastly, we hope to put open contracting at the heart of procurement reforms by this year’s Open Government Partnership host Canada. And that all work to embed open contracting into the largest show on Earth, the Olympics, in time for Paris 2024.

Again, happy New Year. Now, get those running shoes on, step up the pace and join us on a tour of the world of open contracting innovation over the coming weeks and get inspired for impact in 2019!

Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin (CC BY 2.0)