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Red flags for integrity: Giving the green light to open data solutions

Just fresh from the press and in time for the International Anti-Corruption Conference in Panama from December 1-4, we are publishing a new methodology guide, developed by the Open Contracting Partnership and Development Gateway. Download Red flags for integrity: Giving the green light to open data solutions now and meet us at one of the session on anticorruption, procurement and open contracting on Thursday and Sunday.

We all know public contracting is government’s number one corruption risk, but what are we going to do about it? At the Open Contracting Partnership (OCP), we believe in long term, sustainable change. Tackling Goliaths like corruption challenges us to craft innovative, catalytic solutions that generate proactive change at the root of the issue. Here, it is integrity in the public procurement ecosystem – one of our key four use cases for open contracting that promotes value for money, fairer competition and better quality services and goods for citizens. Plus, if you – as I –  get a kick out of hardcore data analysis, this report has R script for days.

While you could swim in the volumes of legal guides and process notes on corruption, these resources tend to be theoretical, academic, and just plain, well, long. While impressive in scale, they are remarkably scant on the data analysis front. As practitioners, we need concise, data-driven guides that feed our inner pragmatists. Our first crack at integrity guidance is here for your feedback.

This piece is the first in a series of global guides on integrity that we have put together in close collaboration with Development Gateway. We hope to provide actionable and approachable steps that practitioners from across the globe, from researchers to procurement agencies to fellow data dorks, can take to begin analyzing their procurement data through the lens of integrity. Let’s break this down into tastier bites:

  1. Procurement data: What are governments buying, and for how much? How can we get a sense of procurement across times, from when companies first submit bids to provide a good or service (the tender period), right through to how well the winning company actually ends up performing (implementation)? Are there interesting patterns of tenders, bidders, and service delivery quality across time and geography? To know this, we need to be comparing apples to apples, or the same data fields across time. Thankfully, the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) allows us to do just that. In this guide, we explore the kinds of data the OCDS tracks and showcase how those data can be used to monitor integrity across all stages of the procurement process.
  1. Integrity: No one country is free from threats to integrity, such as corruption or wasteful spending. How fair and impartial is the procurement ecosystem in your country? How can we figure out what the most commons threats are in your particular context? Once that’s done, how can we metricize, or put into calculable terms, these threats? What specific data fields do these metricizations require? Once we figure out what data we need, how do we run the actual calculations? In this piece, we metricize over a hundred concrete indicators of potential threats to integrity, or red flags. Many of these flags can be calculated directly from OCDS available right now and we have a cool example to share with you at the end from our Showcase and Learning project with the fabulous team from Prozorro in Ukraine.

To avoid giving away too much more, I’ll end with a concise list of the top 5 reasons I think this is the coolest global guidance piece on OCDS for integrity analysis:

  1. We structured the guide’s content around conversations with some of the most active voices across the field of integrity, including István Toth, Mihály Fazekas, Ian Makgill, and The International Anti-Corruption Resource Center.
  2. Though the contained data analysis centers on a single country’s dataset, you can directly apply the methodology we developed to any country that publishes OCDS data.
  3. We edited the document through a crowdsourced process of open review by field experts over the last month, with a draft fully available to all interested parties for comments, concerns, and poetry slam-style snaps. In fact, now that the piece has been released publicly on our site, the document is now available for unrestricted feedback by the public (yes, that means you!).
  4. We co-developed the guide with the brilliant minds at Development Gateway, who have shown themselves time and again to be thought leaders in the fields of ICT4D and data analysis for the greater good.
  5. It is literally the only guidance piece on OCDS for integrity analysis (at least so far). It’s easy to be the best player in a game of solitaire! It’s also shown us some valuable lessons for our planned OCDS upgrade.

We would love to hear your critical feedback on what we’ve done so far. At the OCP, we genuinely care about your feedback. We promise that if you take the time to read through it and submit comments, questions, or concerns on the publicly available draft, we will not only consider your thoughts as we revise this living document, but will also incorporate your ideas into the planning of our next volume in this series of guides, due out at the end of February 2017.

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