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Open Data Day 2020: Tracking public money flows with contracting data

Detailed data dictionaries, standardized infrastructure data and legal amendments – This year’s Open Data Day event participants identify these and other areas for improvement to effectively monitor government spending.

We consistently seek to support open contracting data publishers and users with our core vision of a modern and efficient procurement system that works for everyone. As part of our commitment to fostering greater openness in governance, each year we partner with the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN) in their mini-grant scheme to support Open Data Day events across the world with a focus on tracking public money flows. Open Data Day is an international annual event for data enthusiasts to connect and build solutions to complex social issues together with the community by using open data.

This year, we were encouraged to see so many proposals for open contracting-related events from all over the world. Between the OCP & Hivos, we supported 15 open contracting open data events, in Bolivia, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Russia, Somalia, South Korea, Tanzania, and Uganda. These gatherings focused on encouraging the use of procurement data where it is open, and advocating for openness where it is not. Although several events, sadly, had to be canceled due to the Covid-19 outbreak, those that did go ahead were very productive, as you’ll see from the summaries of some of them below.

Spreading awareness of open contracting in Somalia

In Somalia, which is considered one of the world’s most corrupt countries, a group of 35 civil servants, journalists, academics, business people and civil society representatives identified legislative amendments as a useful starting point for making public contracting more transparent and competitive. They established a cross-sector working group to draft an open paper calling on the legislative to amend local laws in line with international standards and regulations. They also concluded that the Public Tender Board, the state body that governs the country’s procurement system, needs to strengthen its capacity to effectively oversee all the government’s procuring entities. The current system for managing procurement processes is paper-based and scattered, and lack of disclosure is a major problem, with only one in four tenders being advertised publicly. The event was organized by the youth-led nonprofit Bareedo Platform. More on the Somalian event.

Examining public procurement data in Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, data science students from LEAD University met with officials who run the government’s procurement portal and examined data on public contracts from the last ten years. They found two main difficulties when analyzing the data: the published data dictionaries were poor and the data lacked a sufficient level of detail. More on the Costa Rican event.

Empowering grassroots organizations to demand infrastructure data in Malawi

Substandard infrastructure exacerbates flooding from tropical storms in southern Malawi each year. For Open Data Day, the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (CoST Malawi) hosted an event with community members in the Nsanje District to discuss how publishing data in line with the Open Contracting Infrastructure Data Standard could improve the community’s understanding of infrastructure projects related to disaster preparedness and recovery efforts and their implementation. More on the Malawi event.

Using budget and contract data to strengthen democracy in Nigeria

Dataphyte in Nigeria used the grant we provided to support change agents to track and use budget, procurement and revenue data to demand accountability. Participants, consisting of CSOs and journalists, worked through budget and procurement data analysis sessions and learnings on how open data can be used to improve their work and hold the government accountable. It was agreed that as change agents they could collaborate and work towards developing a central database through which datasets can be assessed and increase contracting transparency and accountability in governance. More on the Dataphyte Nigeria event.

Open data in modern Russia

Public finances were on the agenda at a conference organized by the Russian nonprofit Infoculture, which brought together more than 500 participants to explore the role of open data in modernizing Russia. With a packed program of over 20 workshops and several award ceremonies, the event emphasized the importance of citizens’ access to truthful and objective information and data. More on the Russia event.

Amplifying civil society voices focused on nutrition in Nigeria

The COVID-19 lockdown almost got in the way of this event, but the organizers were able to seamlessly transition it to an online gathering with 35 participants. Civil Society Scaling up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN) made a case for using open data for decision-making in the implementation of high impact nutrition interventions. Participants also explored how open Nigeria’s data really is, the flexibility of ‘custodians of data’ in releasing their records, the challenges of open data in Nigeria and recommended strategies for improvement. More on the CS-SUNN event.

Analyzing open budget data in Indonesia

In the city of Bandung, 20 students reviewed budget data from online and offline sources and found that the existing budget allocation for their province, West Java, doesn’t always correspond to public needs. The event was organized by the leadership organization Perkumpulan INISIATIF and Open Data Lab Jakarta. More on the Indonesian event.

A public contracting data camp in Bolivia

Bolivia is one of only two Latin American countries that don’t have an access to information law. This is an obstacle to making the use of public resources transparent and public officials accountable to citizens, according to CONSTRUIR Foundation, who organized a data camp to open public contracting at the municipal level. The 47 young people who participated in the event used the Open Contracting Data Standard to analyze contracts from six municipalities in the city of La Paz. Their work will inform the Municipal Public Procurement Observatory project, which is expected to be available for consultation on the CONSTRUIR website in May. More on the Bolivian event.

We have always described open data as a means, not an end in itself. Using open data for open procurement, we can have a better understanding of how public funds are used to ensure transparency and accountability in governance; the end goal being that public funds are actually meeting public needs. Whether you’re a procurement officer, civil society organization or citizen, you, too, have a role to play in making government procurement a system that works for everyone.

Not sure how to go about it? Start here!

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