News

Malaysian project to expose political interests in procurement wins Open Contracting Innovation Challenge

18 Oct 2017

We are delighted to announce that the Malaysian project Telus wins the Grand Prize of the Open Contracting Innovation Challenge, a worldwide competition run by the the Open Data Institute and the Open Contracting Partnership to recognize groundbreaking data-driven ideas for improving public procurement.

Globally, every third dollar that governments spend goes into public contracts. Who decides how this money is spent? Who wins the deals? And, what are the links between them? Developed by the Malaysian civic tech organization the Sinar Project, the winning innovation links contract data to other open databases to expose business interests of politicians and public officials.

Telus, meaning “transparency” in Malay, highlights that open contracting can be a powerful tool to hold governments to account, even where little information is available to the public.

Sinar Project’s co-founder Khairil Yusof said: “In restrictive and opaque environments, information needed for transparency and anti-corruption is hard to get, not shared and often lost. Hidden ties between politically exposed persons and contracts allow systematic corruption to continue unchecked, as the perpetrators not only escape scrutiny during the tender process, but can be transferred or promoted long after problems with the contract are uncovered.”

Learn more about Telus here.

Gavin Hayman, Executive Director of the Open Contracting Partnership said: “Governments rarely know who buys what, from whom and for how much. While many countries have been committing to open contracting to address this, we are acutely aware that in many quarters open is not yet the norm and citizens are left in the dark. Telus opens up contracting by looking at the dimension of potential conflicts of interest involved in making decisions, even in data poor and difficult environments like Malaysia. As such, it gives us all hope that public money can be better spent”.

The Sinar Project wins a cash prize of $30,000. Government Innovation and Grand Prize winners will be honored at Open Contracting 2017, a global meeting for open contracting innovators from around the world to be held in Amsterdam in November.

“Telus is open source and the approach can be reused globally. We hope that it will be one of many tools built on open data standards to help reduce corruption and wastage in public contracting worldwide,” said Khairil Yusof.

The highly competitive field of finalists, who built their final proposals in an incubation phase over the summer, consisted of the projects Zindex from the Czech Republic, Contratobook from Mexico, DigitalTwins and OCDSearch from Ukraine and OpenOpps from the UK.

Nigeria’s Bureau for Public Procurement was previously announced as the Government Innovation Award for building its first-ever unified, multi-stakeholder collaboration to open up data on its public procurement through the Nigerian Open Contracting Portal or NOCOPO, which will publish open data from over 750 government agencies to the Open Contracting Data Standard.

Ania Calderón, Executive Director of the Open Data Charter said: “The Open Contracting Innovation Challenge brought together an impressive amount of inspiring ideas from people around the world using open data as a tool to make sure governments are spending in benefit of the public.”

The Challenge question was: How would you use data to strengthen the integrity and effectiveness of public procurement? In total, 88 teams from 40 countries and every continent responded with original ideas for managing, analyzing, and monitoring how the government buys goods and services, as well as cutting-edge approaches to publishing what gets bought, when, from whom, and for how much.

The judging panel was made up of Ania Calderón, Edafe Onerhime, Eliza Niewiadomska, Fernando Perini, Gavin Hayman, Jeni Tennison, and Sam Mar. The judging criteria focused around potential for impact, innovation, use of data, team members and sustainability.

The Challenge is funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

More information:

  • The Sinar Project converted more than 500,000 contracts to the Open Contracting Data Standard and standardized the information of more than 200,000 beneficial owners.
  • More detail about the finalists and the Government Innovation Award winner.
  • Every year, governments spend over $9.5 trillion through contracts on everything from pencils and paper to building infrastructure such as bridges, schools, and hospitals. Every third dollar that the government spends is on public contracts.

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About the Open Contracting Partnership

The Open Contracting Partnership connects governments, civil society and business to open up and monitor public contracting. We support the global open contracting community and work with partners across sectors and along the whole process of government contracting. We run a global helpdesk at data@open-contracting.org to support the implementation of the Open Contracting Data Standard, a global schema describing what information to publish at each stage of the contracting cycle. More information at www.open-contracting.org.