Back to latest

2023: A procurement path out of the permacrisis?

2022 was a year where we saw more impact than ever before (see a nice summary of our monthly highlights). We also had the joy of reconnecting in person both as a team and as a community, with huge energy, at regional events around the world. 

Reflecting on what we learnt and where we are now, here are the five priorities for OCP in 2023. 

1) The ‘permacrisis’: what can we do to help?

2022’s word of the year was “permacrisis”, covering the interlocking, interacting challenges that face us all, from democratic decline, inflation and economic instability, to inequality and the continuing impacts of the pandemic, climate change and the illegal invasion of Ukraine. 

It’s a brutal combination of big, systemic challenges. We need solutions that are big, systemic and cross-cutting too.

Public procurement touches every area of daily life, and makes up more than US $13 trillion in public spending annually. We can use this power to help alleviate the impacts of the permacrisis if we’re willing to buy things in a fundamentally different way.

We may be a small organization of 30 experts with a US$5 million budget, but we can have an outsized impact if we can activate public procurement as an effective engine of growth, opportunity and better quality of life for citizens.

We plan to launch a bigger, better and more ambitious cohort of our Lift impact accelerator than ever before targeted squarely on the permacrisis in 2023, unlocking the power of public procurement to improve sustainability, economic inclusion and public trust.

2) Delivering the e-GP transformation 

Another key insight from 2022 was the missed opportunities piling up around the world from e-GP transformation. If the general procurement system is problematic, then procuring the technology to fix it will also be sub-optimal; all the more so if reforms are driven externally with limited local ownership and pre-planning. As our friends at the Digital Impact Alliance put it: “public procurement of digital technologies requires rethinking traditional procurement processes and laws”. 

For example, despite millions of dollars in headline Public Financial Management reforms with the World Bank in Africa, many governments have struggled to procure, build, and institutionalize e-GP systems. The Bank’s lowest cost procurement approach to e-GP delivery has not been tailored to their needs and is getting in the way. We spoke to African leaders at the forefront of these reforms in five countries and collated eight key lessons, recommendations, and tools for this report

Our challenge for 2023 is now to put those insights to work, especially where we can improve the set up right from the start, such as in Malawi and Tanzania. These challenges are not unique to Africa. Bad procurement of technology is a problem across the OECD as well. 

Also in 2023, we want to focus more on working with e-GP providers themselves, to bake open contracting data and principles into their systems, especially for new disruptors who are after creating a radically better service offer to governments. 

3) Closing the feedback loop

As you may know, we’ve been keen to emphasize the mindset shift in procurement from ‘just’ improving transparency and data to driving a culture of better performance. 

In 2022, we’ve been strengthening our support to political and policy reforms to get the data used to drive change. A key priority for us in 2023 will be to power up CSO and business use especially. We have seen some great innovations in 2022 to build on.

In Paraguay, the business association ASEPY is testing Vigia, a new procurement tool it developed together with government agencies, that lets companies find tenders and provides a clear process for providing feedback and complaints. Our partners at the grassroots organization reAcción also set up an ecosystem of software tools to enable community monitoring of education infrastructure. The new tools will help scale up their work to the national level. Their prior impact has shown that it can improve up to five times the allocation of resources to the schools with the greatest infrastructure needs serving low-income students.

In Albania, the public procurement commission revamped their complaints mechanism to manage the process digitally and to improve efficiency and trust. They are now sharing that innovation across the Western Balkans. We’ve also documented emerging civic innovations to improve flood prevention in Assam, India, and to give informal neighborhoods a say in their services in Buenos Aires, Argentina thanks to better data and an improved consultation process. We will be pushing these to jump scale and impact in 2023. 

4) Partnerships and scale

We are after transforming a $13 trillion market. We can’t do this alone and we think the international financial institutions can and should be doing more to promote a radically better vision of procurement. Through their combined policy, technical, financial and human resources, these actors have the power to catalyze public procurement so it’s more open, fair and sustainable and can impact development strategically. 

We now have solid institutional partnerships with the EBRD and IDB. The EBRD has a radical vision of better procurement reform here. The IDB has been promoting compelling interventions like MapaInversiones. We have an exciting new partnership with the UNODC supported by NORAD to support procurement reforms as a key public integrity reform.

We need to deliver on these in 2023 and to convert the World Bank, the OECD, the IMF and the ADB to go beyond their siloed, tactical interventions. For each of the latter, we hope to have a substantial intervention by the end of the year where we can point to a fundamentally better and smarter way of doing procurement reforms.

5) Recovery & resilience in Ukraine 

Ukraine has many of the smartest and most transformational open government, open data and better procurement practitioners in the world. We are all in on supporting them to strengthen Ukraine’s resilience and recovery in the face of Russia’s criminal brutality. 

Our core focus for 2023, will be supporting Ukraine’s homegrown RISE coalition and the government to deliver a prototype of a transformational, digital and open data vision to rethink the whole process flow of the reconstruction to be fast, efficient and open. 

This ‘Digital Recovery Management System’ (DRMS) can go beyond transparency and tracking spending after the fact to support better coordination and delivery of projects in real time across the whole business flow of the damage assessment, project planning and needs assessment to agile procurement to meet those needs and integrating spending control and accountability mechanisms. 

The Ukrainian context naturally holds a high degree of uncertainty and dynamics outside anyone’s control, let alone ours as a small organization. But as we learned during the pandemic, openness, collaboration and high quality data are all the more important to navigate that uncertainty. 

So we are energized and ready to go in 2023! We’ll be refining our service offer across the year, based upon your feedback survey from the end of 2022. We will also be publishing a major independent, external review of our support to partners so far and using that to shape a new five year strategy. 

Don’t miss any of this and have your say on where we go next: sign up to our OCP newsletter here which will update and consult on our strategy and support throughout the year. You can also access our Contracts, Data and Investigations channel here and updates on Ukraine and RISE here.

Foto: The Forest Tower of Camp Adventure in Southern Zealand, Denmark. Stig Nygaard. CC-BY-2.0

Related Stories