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United Kingdom

Open Contracting Data (UK0093)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: United Kingdom Action Plan 2019-2021

Action Plan Cycle: 2019

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Cabinet Office

Support Institution(s): Other actors involved - government DCMS, Department for International Development Other actors involved - CSOs, private sector, working groups, multilaterals, etc Open Contracting Partnership, UK Open Contracting Steering Group

Policy Areas

Access to Information, Anti-Corruption, E-Government, Open Contracting and Public Procurement, Open Data, Public Participation, Public Procurement

IRM Review

IRM Report: United Kingdom Design Report 2019-2021

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion: Pending IRM Review

Description

Objective
To improve compliance, coverage, and quality of publication to Contracts
Finder so that all above threshold public contracts can be tracked from
planning to final spending.

What is the public problem that the commitment will address?
Although there is increasing compliance with the requirement to publish
contract opportunities and awards through the Contracts Finder platform,
there remain data gaps and limitations that make it difficult for government,
the private sector, and citizens to understand the full pattern of government
procurement and spending, and to identify who the government is doing
business with.

It remains difficult to answer questions such as:
● How many contracts does government hold with Firm X? And how close
to completion are these?
● How many government tenders are being won by suppliers outside the
United Kingdom?
● How do terms and values for waste management contracts vary across
public authorities?
● How many contracts include a transparency clause supporting citizen
oversight of delivery?
Building on existing foundations, a focus on better data should be able to
answer these questions.
Although policy and guidance call for publication of contracting documents,
these are also often not published: sometimes due to fears about commercial
confidentiality restrictions. Recent myth busting work has shown commercial
confidentiality should not restrict most contract document publication.

How will the commitment contribute to solve the public problem?
This commitment will drive continued developments of the Contracts Finder
platform, and UK implementation of the Open Contracting Data Standard
(OCDS) as a tool for transparency, accountability and operational analytics.
Improving the use and validation of non-proprietary, unique, reusable
organisation identifiers will help to provide a view of government business
with specific organisations, and will help identify the geographic origin and
beneficial ownership of those organisations.
Work on bringing subcontracting data into the Contracts Finder platform will
provide a clearer view of the government supply chain, including the presence
of SMEs, third-sector and mutual providers of services.
Improving compliance with policy requirements and guidance to publish
contract documents will assist analysis of how contract terms affect the price
and delivery of public services. The creation of additional OCDS compatible
metadata fields in Contracts Finder to indicate specific types of contract terms
(e.g. use of a transparency clause) will allow the consequences of outsourcing
on citizens access to information to be monitored.
Working with the community to build analytics tools of Contracts Finder data
will help government, private firms and citizens to use available data to be
more informed about public procurement.
Work on contract registers and spend linkage will support a move towards a
much more integrated public financial infrastructure, where citizens and
government can fully ‘follow the money’.
Providing transparency and open contracting guidance to the parties in Social
Impact Bonds to help improve this public contracting mechanism.

Lead implementing organisation
Cabinet Office

Timeline
September 2018 - April 2021

OGP values
Access to information, Public Accountability

Other actors involved - government
DCMS, Department for International Development

Other actors involved - CSOs, private sector, working groups, multilaterals, etc
Open Contracting Partnership, UK Open Contracting Steering Group

Verifiable and measurable milestones to fulfil the
commitment

Agree joint methodology with civil society for
measuring tender and award publication

Achieve 80% of above threshold tenders and awards on
Contracts Finder

Achieve 90% of above threshold tenders and awards on
Contracts Finder

Report regularly on publication of contract documents,
and extent of redactions.

Suppliers on larger central government contracts will
have to advertise subcontracting opportunities via the
Contracts Finder website.

Design and introduce fields for reporting on the use of
model contract transparency clauses

Design and pilot features to maintain a contracts
register and implementation progress information,
through Contracts Finder, supporting coverage from
planning -> implementation.

Publish buyer and supplier organisation identifiers for
90% of domestic awards, and all awards over £1m

Publisher supplier identifiers for 90% of international
awards

Consult widely on the impact and implications of linking
contracts and spend to identify opportunities for
identifier exchange between procurement and financial
systems

Four government agencies in DFID priority countries
regularly publish data in line with the Open Contracting
Data Standard (OCDS) by June 2020, with assistance
from Open Contracting Partnership (OCP).

IRM Midterm Status Summary

4. Open contracting data

Main Objective

“To improve compliance, coverage, and quality of publication to Contracts Finder so that all above threshold public contracts can be tracked from planning to final spending.”

Milestones

  1. Agree joint methodology with civil society for measuring tender and award publication.
  2. Achieve 80% of above threshold tenders and awards on Contracts Finder
  3. Achieve 90% of above threshold tenders and awards on Contracts Finder
  4. Report regularly on publication of contract documents, and extent of redactions.
  5. Suppliers on larger central government contracts will have to advertise subcontracting opportunities via the Contracts Finder website.
  6. Design and introduce fields for reporting on the use of model contract transparency clauses
  7. Design and pilot features to maintain a contracts register and implementation progress information, through Contracts Finder, supporting coverage from planning -> implementation.
  8. Publish buyer and supplier organisation identifiers for 90% of domestic awards, and all awards over £1m
  9. Publisher supplier identifiers for 90% of international awards.
  10. Consult widely on the impact and implications of linking contracts and spend to identify opportunities for identifier exchange between procurement and financial systems
  11. Four government agencies in DFID priority countries regularly publish data in line with the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) by June 2020, with assistance from Open Contracting Partnership (OCP).

Editorial Note: For the complete text of this commitment, please see the United Kingdom’s action plan at https://bit.ly/2YPqNoV.

IRM Design Report Assessment

Verifiable:

Yes

Relevant:

Access to Information, Civic Participation

Potential impact:

Moderate

Commitment Analysis
The commitment aims to publish in open format a greater volume of contracts data through the UK government’s portal. [9] The activities include increasing the volume of data available publicly in machine-readable format, thus generating more data for analysis. They also commit to improving data on international awards and working with the Department for International Development (DfID) priority countries to improve their own contracting data. The measurement of progress on this may be interrupted due to the merger of DfID and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in September 2020.

Increasing the amount of available open contracting data makes the commitment relevant to the OGP value of access to information. It is also relevant to the OGP value of civic participation, as milestone 10 calls for the government to “consult widely” on the impact and implications of linking contracts and spending, though this is not well-defined. Most of the planned activities are verifiable, as they provide percentages of above-threshold tenders that will be published as well as the percentage of supplier identifiers of international awards. Other milestones are less clear, such as “reporting regularly” on publication of contract documents and the extent of redactions (milestone 4) and “consulting widely” on the impact and implications of linking contracts and spend to identify opportunities for identifier exchange between procurement and financial systems (milestone 10).

The UK government included commitments around publishing contracts data openly and in the Open Contracts Data Standard (OCDS) format [10] in previous OGP action plan cycles. These past commitments, like the current commitment, refer primarily to ‘above-threshold’ contracts, and so are subject to exclusions, primarily concerning commercial sensitivity. [11] The threshold applies to transparent publishing in public purchasing. Tenders and contracts that fall above the new thresholds must be published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU), a European-wide publication that ensures competition nationally and between European states. The thresholds cover tenders and contracts let under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, the Concession Contracts Regulations 2016, the Utilities Contracts Regulations 2016, and the Defence and Security Public Contracts Regulations 2011. It is vital for such contracts to be published to ensure researchers, policymakers, legislators and campaigners have the right figures on which to base their calculations of public spending. At the beginning of the fourth action plan cycle, about 70 percent of ‘above-threshold’ [12] contracts were being published in a timely manner, so the milestones to increase this to 80-90 percent over the action plan period reflects a significant increase in available data on some of the highest value contracts awarded. [13] The milestones relating to identifiers and newer data fields on the Contract Finder system could also significantly improve the quality and breadth of the data to be made available, as these features were not previously available. These additions could make it easier to cross reference and aggregate data on contracts awarded, with new granularity on location, ownership or company linkages enabling more precise and detailed studies of contracting, thus enabling greater transparency and scrutiny of public spending.

These changes, if implemented, could significantly improve the quality of contracting data and provide a much clearer picture of how public money is spent. At the same time, such data can be used to identify less desirable contracting practices and can contribute to the identification of previously hidden beneficial owners or companies involved in corrupt practices. [14] The current published data is not granular, standardised or comprehensive enough to efficiently identify or uncover these practices, and as such, public money is potentially misused. Enhanced publication would enable civil society, journalists and researchers, as well as the government itself, to better analyse how and where government money is spent. It would also help users to identify patterns or significant points of interest in the contracts data concerning locations, companies, owners and other relevant data points that could inform government on how public money is spent and who benefits.

Overall, this commitment could significantly increase the volume of open contracting data currently available. However, there remain exemptions that can be applied to UK contracts data, and often these can be applied by government without clarifying the rationale. [15] Exemptions are primarily used in situations of commercial sensitivity or national security. This could limit what can be published as part of this commitment. [16] As such, milestones relating to the increase of publication and use of OCDS standards with regard to international contracts data may prove more impactful than the milestones focused on the UK data.

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, open contracting data has emerged as one of the most important factors in a country’s ability to quickly and seamlessly secure the necessary resources to address health challenges, and avoid negative issues such as price-gouging, competition and fraud in the supply chain. In building on this commitment, the IRM recommends the UK government publish data with more granularity in relation to supply chains and invest in more international partnership work to increase the transparency of end-to-end supply chains, including where beneficial ownership lies.

[10] Open Contracting Data Standard: Documentation, https://standard.open-contracting.org/latest/en/
[13] Ian MakGill, Spend Network, interview 24 July 2020.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Ibid.

Commitments

  1. Grants Data

    UK0090, 2019, Access to Information

  2. Digital Charter

    UK0091, 2019, Access to Information

  3. Open Policy Making

    UK0092, 2019, Public Participation

  4. Open Contracting Data

    UK0093, 2019, Access to Information

  5. Natural Resource Transparency

    UK0094, 2019, Access to Information

  6. Innovation in Democracy Programme

    UK0095, 2019, Local Commitments

  7. Sustainable Open Government

    UK0096, 2019, Capacity Building

  8. Local Transparency

    UK0097, 2019, Access to Information

  9. Beneficial Ownership – UK

    UK0063, 2016, Anti-Corruption

  10. Natural Resource Transparency

    UK0064, 2016, Access to Information

  11. Anti-Corruption Strategy

    UK0065, 2016, Anti-Corruption

  12. Anti-Corruption Innovation Hub

    UK0066, 2016, Anti-Corruption

  13. Open Contracting

    UK0067, 2016, Access to Information

  14. Grants Data

    UK0068, 2016, Access to Information

  15. Elections Data

    UK0069, 2016, Access to Information

  16. Revising Freedom of Information Act Code of Practice

    UK0070, 2016, Access to Information

  17. Identifying and Publishing Core Data Assets

    UK0071, 2016, Access to Information

  18. Involving Data Users in Shaping the Future of Open Data

    UK0072, 2016, Access to Information

  19. Better Use of Data Assets

    UK0073, 2016, Access to Information

  20. GOV.UK

    UK0074, 2016, Access to Information

  21. Ongoing Collaborative Approach to Open Government Reform

    UK0075, 2016, E-Government

  22. Open Government at All Levels

    UK0076, 2016, Local Commitments

  23. Open Policy-Making and Public Engagement

    UK0077, 2016, Capacity Building

  24. Public Sector Innovation

    UK0078, 2016, Access to Information

  25. OCDS Implementation

    UK0079, 2016, Access to Information

  26. Open-Up Government

    UK0080, 2016, Access to Information

  27. Open Data Plan

    UK0081, 2016, Access to Information

  28. Open Data Service

    UK0082, 2016, Access to Information

  29. Statswales

    UK0083, 2016, Access to Information

  30. Data Research Centre Wales

    UK0084, 2016, E-Government

  31. Government Social Research Publication Protocol

    UK0085, 2016, E-Government

  32. Gov.Wales

    UK0086, 2016, E-Government

  33. Code of Practice in Supply Chains

    UK0087, 2016, Labor

  34. Starred commitment National Indicators for Wales

    UK0088, 2016, Fiscal Openness

  35. Starred commitment Well-Being Duty

    UK0089, 2016, Anti-Corruption

  36. National Information Infrastructure

    UK0042, 2013,

  37. NHS England Website and Network

    UK0043, 2013, Health

  38. Revised Local Authories Data Transparency Code

    UK0044, 2013, Capacity Building

  39. Transparent Social Investment Market

    UK0045, 2013, Access to Information

  40. Manage and Capture Digital Records

    UK0046, 2013, Capacity Building

  41. Starred commitment Cross-Government Anti-Corruption Plan

    UK0047, 2013, Anti-Corruption

  42. Starred commitment Company Beneficial Ownership Information

    UK0048, 2013, Anti-Corruption

  43. Access to Police Records

    UK0049, 2013, Justice

  44. Transparency in Construction

    UK0050, 2013, Infrastructure & Transport

  45. Legislative Openness

    UK0051, 2013, Anti-Corruption

  46. Whistleblowing

    UK0052, 2013, Anti-Corruption

  47. Open Contracting

    UK0053, 2013, Anti-Corruption

  48. Open Contracting Scotland

    UK0054, 2013, Anti-Corruption

  49. Starred commitment International Aid Transparency

    UK0055, 2013, Access to Information

  50. Health Care Data

    UK0056, 2013, Access to Information

  51. Open Policy Making

    UK0057, 2013, E-Government

  52. Sciencewise

    UK0058, 2013, E-Government

  53. Publication of Draft Legislation

    UK0059, 2013, Open Parliaments

  54. OpenDataCommunities Programme

    UK0060, 2013, Access to Information

  55. PSI Re-Use Directive

    UK0061, 2013, Access to Information

  56. Starred commitment Extractive Transparency

    UK0062, 2013, Access to Information

  57. Ensuring a Clear Process to Support Reduction in Collection of ‘Unnecessary Data’

    UK0024, 2011, E-Government

  58. Developing Data.Gov.Uk and Identifying Other Digital Channels to Support Users

    UK0025, 2011,

  59. Evidence and Databases Behind Policy Statements

    UK0026, 2011, E-Government

  60. Data Underlying Surveys

    UK0027, 2011, E-Government

  61. Examining Ways for Improving the Use of Existing Published Data

    UK0028, 2011, E-Government

  62. Stimulate the Market for Innovative Use of Open Data

    UK0029, 2011, Access to Information

  63. Spend up to 5% of Budget Support on Accountability

    UK0030, 2011, E-Government

  64. Include the OGP Eligibility Criteria to Determine Readiness for UK Budget Support

    UK0031, 2011, Aid

  65. Publish Aid Information from All ODA Government Departments

    UK0032, 2011, Aid

  66. Use a Single Domain for Government Services

    UK0033, 2011, E-Government

  67. Mandate ‘Channel Shift’

    UK0034, 2011, E-Government

  68. Go Online for All Consultations

    UK0035, 2011, E-Government

  69. Develop Practical Guidelines on Departmental Access to Internet and Social Media

    UK0036, 2011, Civic Space

  70. Open Data and Application Interfaces in Ways That Encourage Businesses

    UK0037, 2011, Access to Information

  71. Create Cross-Government Standards on APIs

    UK0038, 2011, Public Participation

  72. Establish Standardised Formats for User-Satisfaction Data

    UK0039, 2011, Public Participation

  73. Provide Government Documents in Open Standard Format

    UK0040, 2011, Access to Information

  74. Implement Crowd-Sourcing and Engagement Processes

    UK0041, 2011, Public Participation

  75. New Power to Secure Release of Valuable Datasets

    UK0001, 2011,

  76. New, Higher Cost Cap for FOI

    UK0002, 2011, Access to Information

  77. Meaningful Disincentives

    UK0003, 2011,

  78. Maximum Time Limits

    UK0004, 2011, Access to Information

  79. Altered Procurement Rules

    UK0005, 2011,

  80. Mandating Phased Introduction of ‘Public by Default’

    UK0006, 2011, E-Government

  81. Formalising Public Data Principles

    UK0007, 2011,

  82. Having in Place an Open Data Compliance Monitoring Process

    UK0008, 2011,

  83. Making Clear the Minimum Citizens Can Expect on Publication and Quality of Data

    UK0009, 2011,

  84. Ensuring a Line of Continuous Improvement for Public Service Providers

    UK0010, 2011, Access to Information

  85. Encourage Continuous Improvement

    UK0011, 2011,

  86. Setting Out How Citizens Can Challenge Where There Is Failure in the Process

    UK0012, 2011, Public Participation

  87. Establishing an Obligation to Consider and Act on User Feedback

    UK0013, 2011, Public Participation

  88. Making Clear That Licenses Must Cover Free, Commercial Re-Use

    UK0014, 2011,

  89. Merge Information Asset Registers…Into a Single Data Inventory

    UK0015, 2011,

  90. Set Consistent Expectations of the Appropriate Quality of Meta-Data

    UK0016, 2011, Records Management

  91. For Data Co-Ordinated Across Government, Set Definitions

    UK0017, 2011, E-Government

  92. Introducing Corporate Responsibility at Transparency Board Level

    UK0018, 2011,

  93. Strengthening and Broadening the Public Sector Transparency Board

    UK0019, 2011, Anti-Corruption

  94. Bringing the Sector Transparency Board Model to Other Parts of Public Sector

    UK0020, 2011, Anti-Corruption

  95. Reviewing the Existing Governance and Regulatory Model

    UK0021, 2011,

  96. Establishing a Framework for Public Service Providers Data Inventories

    UK0022, 2011, Records Management

  97. Developing a Clear Methodology to Support Intelligent Inventories

    UK0023, 2011,

Open Government Partnership