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Israel

Contracting between the government and private sector (IL0016)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Israel Action Plan 2015-2017

Action Plan Cycle: 2015

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Governmental Freedom of Information Unit, Ministry of Justice

Support Institution(s): The Accountant General, Ministry of Finance

Policy Areas

Open Contracting and Procurement, Right to Information

IRM Review

IRM Report: Israel End-of-Term Report 2015-2017

Starred: No

Early Results: Outstanding Outstanding

Design i

Verifiable: No

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

On June 1, 2014, a Government Resolution took effect obligating government offices to publish contracts and permits made regarding the use of public resources or the provision of services to the public on the main freedom of information website . The Governmental Freedom of Information Unit must confirm that the Government Resolution is optimally implemented.

In addition, the Unit works in conjunction with the Accountant General's division in the Ministry of Finance to improve the quality of information made accessible to the public in the area of State expenditures.
Main objective - To increase transparency. Challenge adresses - Transparency of the Government in subjects related to privatization and the use of public resources

IRM Midterm Status Summary

Commitment 3. Increasing Transparency Regarding Contracts between the State and Private Bodies

Commitment TextTo expand the information accessible to the public in the area of contracts and state expenditures.

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed: On June 1, 2014, a Government Resolution took effect obligating government offices to publish contracts and permits made regarding the use of public resources or the provision of services to the public on the main freedom of information website. The Governmental Freedom of Information Unit must confirm that the Government Resolution is optimally implemented.

In addition, the Unit works in conjunction with the Accountant General's division in the Ministry of Finance to improve the quality of information made accessible to the public in the area of State expenditures.

Main Objective: To increase transparency

Milestones:

3.1 To supervise the implementation of the Government Resolution;

3.2 To help implement changes in the reporting system for State expenditures (Merkavah);

3.3 To set standards for reporting State expenditures on an ongoing basis.

Responsible institution: Governmental Freedom of Information Unit, Ministry of Justice

Supporting institution(s): The Accountant General, Ministry of Finance

Start dateJune 1, 2014 End dateJune 1, 2015

Context and objectives:

Government ministries spend billions of New Israeli Shekels through contracts with private entities. Details of these contracts were available prior to this commitment only through formal FOI requests which involved a cumbersome bureaucratic process. In practice, this information is not available for accountability supervision or public discussion.  For instance, the total amount of published ministerial procurements for the first quarter of 2016 exceeds 4.2 billion NIS (1 NIS = 0.26 USD as of 11 Nov. 2016). https://foi.gov.il/node/2407.  

The commitment aims to facilitate access to relevant information in the area of contracts and state expenditures.

The commitment would benefit from greater specificity. The proposed milestones have low specificity since they focus on supervision and support processes or standard setting. Additionally, the language of the commitment describes activities that can be construed as verifiable but require some interpretation on the part of the reader to identify measurable deliverables.

The commitment was completed in 2015. Therefore, the commitment’s expansion of accessible information regarding contracts and state expenditures had a moderate impact on the publication of government contracts. However, a more ambitious commitment with more specific milestones could lead to actual results on a larger scale than what has occurred so far. Given that this commitment's milestones have low specificity, it is easily presented as a completed commitment. A better level of specificity would help improve the commitment’s impact.

Completion

The commitment was largely completed. The supervision of the implementation of the relevant government resolution (Milestone 3.1) was carried out by the Freedom of Information Unit in the Ministry of Justice as part of its overall responsibility for this commitment. The supervision is done by the unit when it follows the flow of contracts uploaded by the various agencies through its own website and reports to the public about each ministry’s implementation. This report appears on the unit's website in clear manner.  Ibidem. http://www.justice.gov.il/Units/YechidatChofeshHameyda/PeilotHayehida/DohotHayhida/ReportsPro/Pages/hitkashrout2016.aspx.   It should be noted that in this regard, the only ministry that has begun implementing the government resolution is the Prime Minister's office itself, and another sub-ministry within the Prime Minister's office, the Office for Strategic Affairs and Propaganda.  'What is the Freedom of Information Act?' (Ministry of Justice - Government Freedom of Information Unit, 16 Sept. 2016), https://foi.gov.il.

To implement Milestone 3.2, the Freedom of Information unit cooperated with the Finance Ministry to adapt the governmental cross-agency reporting system so that it now regularly issues quarterly reports uploaded by government agencies.  Ibid.

Finally, Milestone 3.3 was competed with the publication of guidelines issued by the FOI unit as well as a series of meetings between unit professionals and the government agencies to support them in publishing agency information.  https://goo.gl/Aslehu; see the FOI Unit report on implementing the government resolution ordering the publication of contracts: http://www.justice.gov.il/Units/YechidatChofeshHameyda/GlobalDocs/Update1116.pdf.  

It should be stated that following the implementation of this commitment, the government went further and brought upon the actual publication of line-item expenditures of many government agencies, a move which in itself is a majorly positive outcome, as described below.

Early Results (if any)

As a result of this commitment, the required technological adjustments were made to the information systems of 70 government agencies. These adjustments now allow agencies to upload data to the open data system. As a result of this commitment, 80% of these agencies do actually upload the required information in regard to expenditures.  Ministry of Justice: Government of Freedom of Information Unit, 7 Mar. 2017), https://foi.gov.il/he/search/site/?f[0]=im_field_mmdtypes%3A349; available at: https://goo.gl/h7IK5J. Ministry of Justice: Government of Freedom of Information Unit, 7 Mar. 2017, https://foi.gov.il/he/search/site/?f[0]=im_field_mmdtypes%3A349.   Other agencies also upload required contracts, although their participation is much lower and of a more limited scale. In total, only 335 contracts are accessible to the public online. Most of them were made available in the period after the official end date of the commitment. View note 7’s foi.gov link  However, while many agencies uploaded these documents, the total percentage of contracts available online remained very limited, as noted by the FOI unit.  https://foi.gov.il/node/2407.  

It is worth noting that the Prime Minister's office is not among those 80% presenting its expenditures to the public, nor has it uploaded any of its contracts.   For a report on agency compliance, see 'Advertising report quarterly engagements,' (Ministry of Justice, 2017), www.justice.gov.il/Units/YechidatChofeshHameyda/PeilotHayehida/DohotHayhida/ReportsPro/Pages/hitkashrout2016.aspx.   The IRM researchers find that this may present a harmful message to those in charge of reporting for other agencies as the implementation of the government resolution goes forward.

Next Steps

The IRM researchers recommend taking this commitment a step forward in the next action plan. Future commitments could make clear, specific and measurable goals in terms of: 

  • The volume of contracts published (as percentage of all government contracts); and
  • Streamlining the publication process to avoid unnecessary delays and complicated consideration processes on a per-contracts bases.

It is further suggested that clear goals be set for a date in which all government expenditures be available to the public online and that information be made available in near-to-real time and in formats more easily accessible than the current XLS files uploaded once every three months.

In addition, this commitment should go beyond offering access to information. The IRM researchers consider that with this commitment, the government can move towards higher government accountability. Moving to develop tools for citizen empowerment would be an ideal manifestation for this goal, which at the end also encourages the use of such data.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

3. Increasing Transparency Regarding Contracts between the State and Private Bodies

Commitment Text:

To expand the information accessible to the public in the area of contracts and state expenditures.

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed: On June 1, 2014, a Government Resolution took effect obligating government offices to publish contracts and permits made regarding the use of public resources or the provision of services to the public on the main freedom of information website. The Governmental Freedom of Information Unit must confirm that the Government Resolution is optimally implemented.

In addition, the Unit works in conjunction with the Accountant General's division in the Ministry of Finance to improve the quality of information made accessible to the public in the area of State expenditures.

Main Objective: To increase transparency

Milestones:

3.1. To supervise the implementation of the Government Resolution;

3.2. To help implement changes in the reporting system for State expenditures (Merkavah);

3.3. To set standards for reporting State expenditures on an ongoing basis.

Responsible institution: Ministry of Justice - Freedom of Information Unit

Supporting institutions: The Accountant General, Ministry of Finance

Start date: 1 June 2014

End date: 1 June 2015

Commitment Aim

The aim of this commitment was to increase transparency in government use of public resources by making available to the public contracts between state agencies and private contractors. It also aimed to make this information available proactively, without people having to file Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, as was the case in the past. Due to the vagueness of this commitment's text and milestones, the IRM researcher looked beyond the text of the original commitment to the actions that took place following implementation during the second year of the action plan.

Status

Midterm: Complete

This commitment was reported as fully implemented in the midterm report, despite its limited goals as defined in the action plan. By the time of the midterm report, the government had provided instructions to ministries on how to change their reporting of expenses to better fit the needs of a central information system, to make information about contracts available.http://www.pmo.gov.il/Secretary/GovDecisions/2013/Pages/des1116.aspx. The midterm report laid out the cooperation between the Prime Minister's office and the Ministry of Finance to bring about the publication of government contracts, and the changes made in the computation systems required to do so. It also reported on the initial outcomes, which have since significantly grown. For more information, see the IRM midterm report. Israel, IRM Midterm Report, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Israel_MidTerm-Progress_2015-2017_ENG.pdf, pg. 30.

At the time of writing this end-of-term report (September 2017), the publication of information on government contracts (rather than the contracts themselves) has increased dramatically. The governmental Freedom of Information (FOI) Unit published a quarterly report on its website, detailing tens of thousands of such contracts. The FOI Unit quarterly report, http://www.justice.gov.il/Units/YechidatChofeshHameyda/.
PeilotHayehida/DohotHayhida/ReportsPro/Pages/reports.aspx.
Compliance with the government resolution on this matter is also improving. While the midterm report stated that the Prime Minister's office and the Office for Strategic Affairs and Propaganda initially refused to partake in these publications, this has since changed. The Office of Strategic Affairs and Propaganda has joined the online report and releases the information for its quarterly government contracts. The reports can be seen on the Unit's website, Id. The Prime Minister's office has released the information on its own contracts following an FOI request The information was requested by the Movement for Freedom of Information in Israel and can be seen on their website, https://www.meida.org.il/?p=6886. and has committed to join the regular online publication in November 2017. As informed in the interview with the head of the FOI Unit. It should be noted that this was also a result of actions taken by the FOI Unit and the Knesset to require compliance from the Prime Minister's office (20 March 2017). http://fs.knesset.gov.il//20/Committees/20_ptv_390374.doc.

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Outstanding

Before the contracts information was published online, such information could only be obtained through FOI requests. This created a legal battle over each contract, as different agencies had different policies and interpretations of their legal obligations. The commitment aimed to create a unified standard of proactive online publication for all government authorities and many other agencies, and has succeeded in doing so. The commitment made a plethora of valuable information available to the public and to CSOs dealing with good governance and anti-corruption issues. While use of the information is still in its initial stages, it is fair to assume that merely knowing that all contract information is openly available online will generate more caution among government agencies.

Interviewed CSO representatives, such as the legal advisor of the Freedom of Information Movement, expressed their satisfaction with the website's presentation of the contracts, and said that it serves them well in their work with journalists and in search of further information they plan to request. Stakeholders' meeting, Tel-Aviv, 13 September 2017. Because of this, the IRM researcher evaluates the eventual impact of this commitment on access to information as outstanding.

According to the report on the FOI Unit website, 75 percent of ministries published their report in due time for the third quarter of 2017, the highest percentage since the resolution was implemented in early 2016. For the FOI Unit report see, http://www.justice.gov.il/Units/YechidatChofeshHameyda/PeilotHayehida/DohotHayhida/ReportsPro/Pages/hitkashrout2016.aspx. For one quarter in 2016, the total volume of contracts released was 26,604. This was with a lower compliance rate than today.

Carried Forward?

This commitment has not been carried forward to Israel's third action plan.


Israel's Commitments

  1. Civic participation processes in government

    IL0023, 2017, Capacity Building

  2. Resolution implementation reports

    IL0024, 2017, E-Government

  3. Action plan performance indicators

    IL0025, 2017, E-Government

  4. Government call centers

    IL0026, 2017, Marginalized Communities

  5. National Legislation Database

    IL0027, 2017, E-Government

  6. National Plan for the Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

    IL0028, 2017, Audits and Controls

  7. Transparency criteria

    IL0029, 2017, Public Participation

  8. Publication of information legislative amendments

    IL0030, 2017, Legislation & Regulation

  9. Transparency, participation, accessibility of information in local authorities and Ministry of the Interior

    IL0031, 2017, E-Government

  10. Publicly accessible databases

    IL0032, 2017, E-Government

  11. Remotely accessing government services

    IL0033, 2017, Capacity Building

  12. Paperless government

    IL0034, 2017, E-Government

  13. Open-source code

    IL0035, 2017, E-Government

  14. Evaluation of Open Government plan

    IL0036, 2017, OGP

  15. Contracting between the government and private sector

    IL0016, 2015, Open Contracting and Procurement

  16. Unified Website for Government Offices

    IL0017, 2015, Records Management

  17. Data.gov

    IL0018, 2015, Open Data

  18. Public's Satisfaction with Government Services

    IL0019, 2015, Public Participation

  19. ATI on legislation

    IL0020, 2015, Records Management

  20. Civic participation tools

    IL0021, 2015, E-Government

  21. Civic Participation

    IL0022, 2015, Public Participation

  22. Review of the Governmental Freedom of Information Unit's authority

    IL0014, 2015, Capacity Building

  23. Web for FOI

    IL0015, 2015, Right to Information

  24. Establishing a cross-sector forum that promotes open government programs

    IL0001, 2012, Public Participation

  25. State Budget Information Accessibility

    IL0002, 2012, Fiscal Transparency

  26. Publication of Work Plans in Government Offices

    IL0003, 2012, E-Government

  27. Establishing a system of measurement and review and publicizing a government service report to the public

    IL0004, 2012, Capacity Building

  28. Cooperation between the government and the public in developing online applications

    IL0005, 2012, Private Sector

  29. Public Participation in Policymaking Processes

    IL0006, 2012, Public Participation

  30. Establishing a Freedom of Information Unit in the Ministry of Justice

    IL0007, 2012, Judiciary

  31. Developing technology infrastructure for providing government services

    IL0008, 2012, E-Government

  32. Inter-office Committee for Improving Business Processes

    IL0009, 2012, E-Government

  33. Creating a Government Contact Center (NAMAL - Meeting Point for Citizens)

    IL0010, 2012, E-Government

  34. Online Catalog of Government Services

    IL0011, 2012, E-Government

  35. Establishing a Unit for Government Service to the Public

    IL0012, 2012, Public Service Delivery

  36. Establishing a National Information Technology (IT) Unit Headed by a Government CIO

    IL0013, 2012, E-Government