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What does Afghanistan’s open contracting data look like?

This is part of a new series of country data reviews looking at progress in publishing and using open contracting data by our partners. We will focus on:
i) what the goal of using the data is;
ii) what progress has been made so far; and
iii) what’s working and what the challenges have been.

This blog looks at Afghanistan’s efforts to implement the OCDS to tackle corruption. We take a deep dive into the data available on the public procurement agency’s new open contracting platform, which is one of the government’s key tools in its efforts to reform the public procurement system.

Summary

In a very challenging context, Afghanistan has begun publishing Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) data to its new public procurement portal AGEOPS. The initiative is part of a campaign to tackle corruption in public procurement, launched by President Ashraf Ghani after he was elected in 2014. The National Procurement Authority (NPA) also has a dedicated team of open contracting data technicians in-house that regularly makes improvements to the portal and proactively engages with support providers at the Open Contracting Partnership and our helpdesk.

To understand how the OCDS data from AGEOPS could help support the goal of curbing corruption and other potential uses of the data, we downloaded the full dataset from AGEOPS in January 2020 and calculated some basic metrics on public contracting in Afghanistan. The data covers 6,952 contracting processes involving 71 procuring entities and 1,392 suppliers. Data is disclosed at the planning, contract and implementation stages and includes some information at all stages of the contracting process, to varying degrees of coverage. Much of the data relates to the implementation stage of the contracting process – publication of which is typically less common than tender and award information – and includes more than 28,000 milestones, 8,000 documents and 4,000 transactions. Note the slight variances from the metrics from the OCDS dataset and the live AGEOPS portal: the former is from a point in time, and the latter includes live data not yet exported as OCDS.

Context

The public procurement challenges in Afghanistan can’t be overstated: rampant corruption, mafia-run companies, donor fatigue, and severe instability which affects project implementation, maintenance and monitoring. With very limited resources, the government must prioritize projects that have a realistic chance of success and develop transparent mechanisms for engaging with businesses and community groups. Since 2014, Afghanistan has introduced a series of procurement reforms, including the creation of the country’s first ever national procurement authority, to professionalize and modernize procurement processes and practices. Open contracting and open government commitments have been used as vehicles for delivering these reforms and tracking their implementation. We look at the influence these reforms are having on the public procurement system in a feature story here.

Progress in publishing open contracting data

Afghanistan has been publishing OCDS data since August 2018, with a focus on detecting corruption. In its open contracting commitments, the country pledged to set up a dedicated procurement portal. So far, the procurement agency has upgraded its existing system, the Procurement Management Information System (PMIS), to publish OCDS data via a new portal, the Afghanistan Government Electronic Open Procurement System (AGEOPS). This portal allows users to search, download and visualize procurement contracts, applying the Open Contracting Partnership’s releases and records model. It also publishes a change history of the contracting processes so that any modifications or new steps in the process are visible. A dedicated AGEOPS OCDS portal provides individual downloads of releases and records, bulk monthly downloads and an API.

Data availability & quality

Please note: While Afghanistan is continuously working to improve the quality and completeness of its open contracting data, we cannot make any guarantees as to the accuracy of the information in this data analysis; any findings should be verified with the National Procurement Authority.

The OCDS Helpdesk used the open source Kingfisher tool to download 7,684 releases describing 6,952 contracting processes from the AGEOPS OCDS API in January 2020. The OCDS data is available under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International License

Overview

Information is disclosed at the planning, contract and implementation stages.
Tender data is disclosed for all contracting processes in the dataset, planning data is disclosed for around 50% of process and award, contract and implementation data is disclosed for around 50% of processes.

Contracts

The data contains information on 3,185 contracts with start dates ranging between October 2007 and January 2020 and end dates ranging between September 2006 and September 2023. This discrepancy between the earliest start and end dates suggests that there are some issues with data quality or completeness for contract periods in the data. 

As expected, most contracts are terminated (in OCDS, the ‘terminated’ status includes contracts which were successfully completed). The proportion of active contracts is high considering the span of contract periods in the dataset, which suggests that the contract status may not always be updated when a contract is completed.

Buyers & Suppliers

The data contains 71 unique procuring entity names. Most procuring entities are identified using an identifier drawn from the Afghanistan Chart of Accounts register (AF-COA), however some procuring entities do not have an identifier. Some procuring entities also share the same identifier, in which case one may be a department or unit of the other.

These are the contracting processes for the top 10 procuring entities in the data, showing the وزارت دفاع ملی or National Defence Ministry, as the largest procurer:

1. National Defense Ministry, 2. Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, 3. Ministry of Public Health, 4. Ministry of Urban Development and Housing, 5. Directorate General of Administration, 6. Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, 7. Ministry of Interior, 8. Ministry of Education, 9. Department of Finance, 10. Ministry of Higher Education.

The data contains details of 1,392 suppliers. Most suppliers are identified using an organization identifier drawn from the Afghanistan Tax Identification Number (AF-TIN) registers, however there are some examples of invalid identifiers (e.g. AF-TIN-0, AF-TIN-), which suggests organization identifiers may not be validated at source against the register.

1. Afghan Telecom Company, 2. Building Construction Enterprise, 3. Shayeee Alimi fled, 4. Anwar Abbasi Limited, 5. Fast Express Logistics Services Company, 6. De Ariana Afghan Air Company, 7. Fazl al-Haq Qirayi Lemid, 8. Mohammad Davood Amani Logistics Services Company, 9. Elias Weiss Construction & Construction Company, 10. Mola Nasir Limited Business and Logistics Company

The top supplier with 53 awards (out of a total of 3,362 awards) is the Afghan Telecom Company.

Implementation

The data on contract implementation includes more than 28,000 milestones, 8,000 documents and 4,000 transactions. Providing data on implementation transactions allows data users to track both fine-grained and aggregated details of the spending transactions made against contracts. As a fine-grained example, the chart below shows the cumulative value of transactions and the total value of a contract between the Department of Finance and the Shiladiyeh Societe Enk for advisory services for supervision of Kabul highway reconstruction at Jalalabad with an ID of MPW/1527/ADB/QCBS.

Note: We found that transactions between 2014 and May 2017 for this contract appeared to be duplicated. Duplicates (based on date and transaction value) were removed to produce the above analysis.

Aggregated implementation transactions give a view of the scale of contracting processes captured in OCDS. Here is a summary of the published data on transactions for 3 currencies, AFN, USD and EUR, converted to USD:

Note: For convenience, we converted all currencies to USD at the current exchange rate (January 2020), however for more accurate results currency conversion should be based on the date of each transaction. Duplicates (based on date and transaction value) were removed to produce the above analysis.

We noted a number of transactions in the data where the currency was not stated, so these were excluded from the conversion. Omitting the currency from the data means that it is not possible to get a complete picture of spending.

The Afghanistan reporting model includes both financial milestones (amount of payment) and physical progress milestones for each month during implementation. Using milestones [http://standard.open-contracting.org/latest/en/schema/reference/#milestone] to express these allows scrutiny of the progress of particular contracts.  

Recently, NPA has been working with the OCDS Helpdesk, engaging with questions and clarifications, to map more fine-grained detail on implementation milestones using the OCDS metrics extension [https://extensions.open-contracting.org/en/extensions/metrics/master/]. This will enable users to understand the planned and actual progress of contract implementation, both in terms of physical and financial progress.

Contracting documents

Afghanistan’s OCDS data includes documents as well as data: 16,150 documents attached to the contract section, and 8,112 documents attached to the implementation section. 

Publishing documents as well as data is important because they allow end-users to perform detailed scrutiny of contracting processes, which is particularly relevant for detecting fraud and corruption, a priority goal for Afghan stakeholders.

What can’t we tell from the data yet?

Although data on 6,952 tenders was published, only the following fields are provided:

PathCoverage
tender/awardPeriod49%
tender/id100%
tender/mainProcurementCategory48%
tender/milestones49%
tender/procuringEntity48%
tender/status52%
tender/tenderPeriod47%

This limits some uses of the data, for example, it isn’t possible to understand what procurement method was used or how many bidders a tender attracted. Afghanistan is also planning to expand the awards section data in the future.

Finer-grained detail about which items are being purchased is not available since Afghanistan does not yet provide item-level details in tender, award or contract stages using an item classification scheme. This detail would allow end-users to calculate what types of goods, works, and services the government spends money on, as shown in our recent blog on Buenos Aires. However, we should note that Buenos Aires uses a local classification scheme, which supports comparisons between different contracting processes within the city, but not with data from other jurisdictions/publishers. For Afghanistan, as can be seen from the implementation section, more data on milestones such as date modified, title and description would provide further opportunities for analysis. 

The system uses a mix of legacy and new electronic government procurement (eGP) modules to cover the entire procurement cycle, which does have its challenges; for example, a lack of shared identifiers (unique ID numbers for each contracting process) across modules makes linking up data more difficult.

Finally, while organization identifiers are provided for all organizations, there is room for improvement in how these are modeled in some cases, for example by ensuring that all award suppliers are listed in the parties array in compiled releases.

The NPA is constantly working on upgrades to the system that we hope will address these issues and will continuously improve the quality and completeness of Afghanistan’s open contracting data.