Emergency procurement for COVID-19: Buying fast, smart, and open

Rapid and efficient procurement of life-saving goods and services is essential in the fight against the Coronavirus. Government will likely need to resort to emergency procedures and negotiated arrangements. How they manage that emergency procurement will play a major role in how they contain COVID-19 and how many lives can be saved.

It is public procurement’s moment in the spotlight. It needs to be fast, smart and open if it’s going to shine. We make the case that you can buy fast but still buy openly.

Our recommendations

  1. Policy: Make emergency procedures public and open. This includes coordinating and centralizing procurement, setting a clear test and a written justification for emergency procedures, publishing open data, targeting price gouging, creating standard tender documents, and requiring timely reporting.
  2. Coordination: Set clear goals & priorities and consolidating emergency committees for quick decision-making. Create strategies for capacity building and increasing participation.
  3. Data: Use open procurement data to analyze and share information to predict and manage critical supply chains. Collecting tagging all contracting processes and budget lines with “COVID-19” to ensure high-quality, open and complete data, disclose technical comments from suppliers, and publishing all contract awards under the emergency framework. Our research shows that this should include information about suppliers as well.
  4. Innovative partnerships: Build innovative partnerships with business and civil society. Issue a list of essential medicines and devices so markets can react accordingly and encourage startups and data-driven civil tech projects.
  5. Civic monitoring: Trust and support civil society to play an important role in monitoring efficient spending and delivery of goods and services. Create clear feedback channels and spaces for meaningful participation.

Read our full recommendations.

We’ve developed guidance for using open data to monitor emergency procurement and guidance on how to follow the money and a tip-sheet on what to look for.

The insights of twelve research projects from Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Georgia, Guatemala, Kenya, Lithuania, Nepal, Nigeria, Paraguay, Philippines, Uruguay, have confirmed the relevance of our recommendations and added additional details on the issues of complete data about emergency contracts, suppliers, coordinated purchasing, standard tender documents, updating procurement regulations, and creating meaningful spaces for participation.

There are great examples of countries that use open procurement data to track and manage emergency spending from Colombia, Moldova, Ukraine and Paraguay. More examples below.

Open data is also helping connect buyers and suppliers such as for the US and globally. The EU is collecting all COVID-19 related tenders on one page.

We are a silo-busting non-profit, working across governments, businesses, civil society, and technologists to open up and transform government contracting worldwide. We bring open data and open government together to make sure public money is spent openly, fairly and effectively. We’d love to share your experiences and projects responding to the Coronavirus pandemic, locally or globally.

Resources and tools

Resources by the open contracting community

Open Contracting Data Standard

Tools

Related response and commentary

How countries are responding: best practice and examples

  • In Paraguay, the national public procurement agency published a searchable dataset of their COVID-19 response procurement and created a framework agreement to procure emergency items. Building on our advice, they also created a registry of suppliers that can sell emergency items in Paraguay.

  • In Chile, the medical procurement agency CENABAST has been granted more market power through a new law, which should reduce the price of medicines. Civil society is also using data-driven red flags risk indicators to monitor COVID-19 related contracts. We have started a local research project in collaboration with CENABAST to further improve its procurement processes.

  • In Colombia, the procurement agency CCE has created a dashboard showing emergency procurement, and civil society organizations across the country have partnered to monitor these purchases.

  • In Ecuador, the national procurement agency SERCOP created a public search tool with downloadable OCDS data to monitor COVID-19 emergency procurement and detect signs of corruption and provided a channel for complaints. Civil society identified overpriced contracts for key medical supplies including N95 masks and body bags, and generated public pressure to suspend processes and hold responsible actors to account.

  • In Buenos Aires, the city moved to centralize their emergency procurement, opened more data, and improved vendor engagement following corruption scandals in the city’s COVID-19 emergency procurement.

  • In Moldova, Positive Initiative, the largest patients’ rights and advocacy group in the country, built a coalition of 30 nonprofit and governmental organizations. In just a matter of weeks they launched a public procurement platform that displays detailed information about all government contracts for supplies and services to fight COVID-19. Now journalists can run investigations, civil society is tracking spending, procuring entities can use the tools for better planning, and suppliers can conduct market analysis.

  • In Ukraine, the Ministry of Health used procurement data for better planning, supplier engagement, civic monitoring and strategic communications. A coalition of government reformers and civil society has worked to put all of Ukraine’s COVID-19 related tenders in the public domain by law and make them available for ex-post monitoring and future audits. Civil society is actively monitoring contracts awards such as the prices for masks, gloves and ventilators. Transparency International Ukraine also improved their business intelligence tool and developed a separate analytical tool to track COVID-19 spending.

How we can help

We can support you with:

  • Policy advice on decrees or legislation to make emergency and recovery efforts effective, open & accountable
  • Data collection, publication and analysis for better planning, tracking and monitoring of COVID-19 response procurement
  • Strategies to increase collaboration and coordination among stakeholders
  • Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning plans to track whether your planning, procurement and contract management are effective
  • Monitoring methodologies and advocacy strategies for civil society organizations, media, and government agencies to provide oversight for both the emergency response and the economic recovery
  • Examples of what is working (and not working) in other cities and countries
  • Peer-to-peer learning on emerging issues in supplier engagement, cross-agency or cross-sector collaboration, and region-specific topics

Where are we supporting the COVID-19 response:

  • In Moldova, we are supporting the collaboration between the medical procurement authority and civil society to improve coordination in planning the COVID-19 response procurement and monitoring its implementation.
  • In Colombia, we supported the national public procurement agency to populate their item catalogues for COVID-19 response framework agreements by inviting suppliers to a pre-market engagement process.
  • In Paraguay, we worked with the national public procurement agency to publish a searchable dataset of their COVID-19 response procurement.
  • In New Orleans, one of the hardest hit cities in the US, we will support the Mayor and her team with recovery efforts especially in reviving the small and medium sized business sector.
  • In Latin America, we are supporting Red Palta, a network of seven data journalism organizations from Argentina, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay in a series of investigations into the COVID-19 response.

Contact our expert

Viktor Nestulia,
Senior Program Manager