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Five Frequently Asked Questions about Implementing Local Public Procurement Processes

5 preguntas frecuentes sobre la implementación de procesos locales de compras públicas

1-Makueni
Katria Tomko|

One of the advantages of a local open contracting initiative is the proximity of a government to the people that it serves – it allows for easier public participation in governance. Of late, local governments who have started initiatives to make their processes to procure goods and services more efficient and accountable have come together with non-government actors in the Local Open Contracting Initiative (LOCI) – a global linking and learning mechanism coordinated by the international NGO Hivos and its partners. 

What are some of the frequently asked questions that local governments and civil society have when considering designing and implementing such initiatives? Katria Tomko of Hivos’ Open up Contracting Program answers a few.

What is open contracting? 

Every year, governments spend immense amounts of money on public contracting (also known as public procurement) processes. To ‘open contracting’ is to make public contracting processes more open, inclusive, and responsive to the needs of people and to make data and documents in these procurement processes available to inform debate and decision making. In doing this, governments can save tax money, make better use of public resources, deliver better public goods and services, boost integrity, and prevent fraud and corruption. Publishing this data is a necessary first step, but it’s not the last. Informed citizens need to be able to access and make sense of this data to provide feedback. Only then will this open data unlock opportunities for improvement in the procurement system.

Read on to learn more about open contracting. 

Is there a specific formula for implementing a local open contracting initiative? 

There are several steps you can take as a civil servant to best design and implement a local open contracting initiative:

  • Understand the current legal framework, organizational setup, and public contracting process in your sub-national or city government.
  • Discuss open contracting concepts with relevant stakeholders, agree on goals, and set pathways for how to realize them. 
  • Map and publish available public contracting data and documents from all phases of the public procurement cycle by following the Open Contracting Partnership’s OCDS implementation guide.
  • Aggregate the data into a single platform that allows for monitoring and analysis, which, in turn, facilitates smarter and more efficient delivery of public goods and services. 
  • Ensure your legislative and policy framework supports reforms that will reach and understand all stakeholders and their needs, thereby making the entire public contracting cycle more efficient, transparent, and accountable.
  • Realize open contracting is a process that requires changing mindsets and long term commitments from everyone. Managing this change process is as important as policy reform and data disclosure.

More help on getting started and an open contracting journey in 7 steps.

Can a local initiative make a big difference when a national initiative is already in play?

Of course! Local and national contexts have significantly different needs. Not to mention, bottom-up initiatives can influence national-level processes. Both local and national initiatives benefit from exchange and integration.

LOCI, mentioned earlier, is a pilot where local initiatives learn from each other to find out what works and what doesn’t. Participants learn how to move from ad hoc engagement with national governments and civil society toward strategic engagement. Ensuring that changes are demand-driven is key to the implementation and sustainability of new contracting reform processes. Determining demand becomes easier when local governments start a dialogue and work in tandem with civil society and the business sector. Direct and honest delivery of public service can then take place and lead to accountable and inclusive local governance.

Learn more about LOCI’s learning approach here!

Is it beneficial for a local government to disclosure procurement data? And is it safe?

Disclosing your data is a gateway to opportunity. For a government, the data contains information that can be used to produce better analytics. With better analytics, procedures can be improved to facilitate smarter government deal-making – that means potentially huge returns on investments! Disclosed data also promotes fairer deal-making by building trust between the government and other actors. Businesses and civil society organizations are empowered to provide feedback on the procurement process based on insights and evidence from analyzing open procurement data, which, in turn, promotes integrity across government sectors.

And, yes, it is safe! Government contracting documents can be published without compromising personal privacy or commercial confidentiality. If information is legitimately sensitive, a clear case should be made as to how and why disclosure would cause harm – any redactions should be minimal. Anonymizing or aggregating certain personal data to make it non-identifiable can also assuage concerns. 

More doubts about open contracting addressed here and here!

 

How can you make sure that disclosed data is used? 

Opening up procurement data is the first step towards meaningful change. The data needs to be relevant and comprehensible to the people who would benefit from inclusive participation in the procurement process. In Guatemala, for example, HIV/AIDS rights activists linked up with the civic tech community to unlock procurement data on HIV medicine. Together, they worked towards a more open and equitable drug procurement process for people living with HIV. Identifying potential for such collaborative projects is key to ensuring the longevity and sustainability of responses to societal crises, such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic. 

Learn how to make sure open contracting data gets used here and here!

Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you are interested in learning more about LOCI!

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