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Three Factors to Effectively Implement Ambitious Open Procurement Reforms

Tres factores para la implementación efectiva de reformas de contrataciones abiertas

Every year, governments across the world spend over USD $13 trillion (around 12% of global gross domestic product) through public procurement. Yet, various studies show that 10 to 25% of the value of a government contract can be lost to corruption. Applying open government principles to public procurementthrough open contracting and public monitoring and reporting mechanismscan help save money, fight corruption, and expand competition.

In the Open Government Partnership (OGP), the number of commitments advancing open contracting continues to grow. By 2021, three-quarters of OGP members had implemented open contracting and public procurement reforms. Public procurement commitments are more likely to be ambitious (58%), and show strong early results after implementation (26%), compared to the average of all OGP country commitments. 

Here are three factors that could help create more ambitious open procurement reforms and to better implement them. 

  • Make more high-level political commitments across OGP. In the case of open procurement, high-level political declarations of intent opened the door to numerous and more ambitious open procurement commitments in OGP action plans. For example, the political pledges that came out of the London Anti-Corruption Summit and OGP Paris Declaration in 2016 were coupled with a threefold increase in related commitments in action plans that year. 
  • Formalize civil society involvement in implementation. The OGP approach encourages active collaboration between governments and civil society organizations (CSOs) to deliver ambitious open government reforms. Examples in public procurement demonstrate how formalizing this collaboration can also have considerable impact on ensuring strong early results. 

Implementing recommendations of a procurement monitoring group made up of civil society and public officials greatly enhanced Ukraine’s Prozorro platform in 2016. In its first two years, Prozorro led to nearly USD $2 billion in procurement savings and massively increased the amount of procurement information as open data

In the UK, contractual agreements with government institutions provided CSOs with resources to drive data interoperability and push stakeholders towards working with the Open Contracting Data Standard. The support enabled journalists to use open contracting data to uncover serious shortcomings in the care of vulnerable teenagers by local councils. The Netherlands is taking a similar approach, working with CSOs, private companies, and academia to implement their action plan commitment to open the procurement process.

These formal collaborations can also expand beyond OGP action plans. Honduras’ 2016 OGP commitment on open procurement significantly increased access to procurement information via Honducompras. Building on these reforms, an executive decree has mandated locally led multi-stakeholder bodies, which involve those affected by infrastructure projects, to have an active role in monitoring the way that projects are procured and delivered. 

  • Respond to crises or windows of opportunity. The COVID-19 pandemic was an unprecedented challenge for civil society and governments around the world. Open government came under intense pressure during the response to the crisis, but there was an opportunity to leverage open procurement reforms. In Lithuania, the scale of emergency procurement spurred action to ensure that such procurement was open and transparent. In Ecuador, the CSO-government collaboration that started under the first OGP action plan helped stakeholders quickly monitor and respond to the delivery of emergency procurement contracts during the COVID-19 pandemic in real time. 

Such crises do not wait for OGP action plan cycles to start. Where there is overlap, however, the OGP process can offer additional oversight and independent assessment of such reforms. Action plans developed during the pandemic incorporated ambitious commitments related to COVID-19; for example, Indonesia promised to increase the transparency of budget information related to COVID-19, Kenya committed to including emergency COVID-19 procurement when implementing the Open Contracting Data Standard, and Colombia pledged to bring in citizens to monitor COVID-19-related projects.

There are huge potential benefits in incorporating open government into public procurement reform. Many commitments in OGP processes have shown that incorporating these three factors into the policy-making process can be highly influential. 

What other factors are important in promoting ambition or ensuring progress on implementing open procurement reform? Leave your comments below and let us know what other elements you think help drive implementation of ambitious open procurement reform.

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