Open contracting includes norms and practices aimed at increasing disclosure of public procurement processes worldwide and monitoring the implementation of corresponding contracts. Its main goal is to make contracts open, transparent and easily understood in order to protect public resources and ensure that these resources are properly used to deliver services to citizens.
Open contracting practices can be implemented at any level of government and applied to any type of public contracting (from basic contracts for the procurement of goods, to complex contracts, joint venture agreements, licenses and production sharing agreements). Whether it is one or a combination of public, private and donor fund sources, open contracting will ensure transparency and control over tendering, performance and completion.
It is true that public contracts cover all economic sectors and types of agreements, including procurement, licenses and the sale of public property, and that is why there is a legitimate need for confidentiality. Nevertheless, disclosure of documents and information related to public contracting will assist in understanding, ability to monitor performance, and, as a result, accountability for outcomes.
Open Contracting Data Standard
How to ensure the work of open contracting practices? The first step is to provide a simple unified open data standard that will enable collecting data from different places and fields in the form that will be readable by machines and understandable by humans. Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) is a result of the collaboration of the Open Contracting Partnership and the World Wide Web Foundation, supported by Omidyar Network and World Bank.
This standard is a big step in building a new infrastructure of open governance that will promote disclosure and participation in public contracting. OCDS is being developed basing on extensive research, consultation, development, testing, feedback and refinement. Work on this standard involves both government and non-government entities, commercial and non-profit organizations across multiple sectors and countries, because it is first step towards adaptation to diversity of open contracting data.
Objectives of Open Contracting Data Standard 1.0:
- establishment of a data standard for contracting and contracting-related information;
- opportunity to compare contracting information from different sources/regions/countries;
- recognition of diversity across sectors: the master standard can be tailored to sector-specific needs via simple extensions;
- standard’s adoption and implementation by public bodies in order to share their contracting data with a minimum of complexity.
OCDS is a major part of open contracting. We support this project and contribute to various stages of its development, because it will provide a fair and competitive business environment for the private sector and improve the quality of goods and services provided to citizens. The main aim of creation of a usable and flexible Open Contracting Data Standard is to build capacities for collecting, publishing, storing, accessing and sharing contracting data.
Successful open contracting projects across the world
Development of a global standard for the publication of procurement data and update of legislation carried out in recent years have already obtained some results. For instance, in 2013 Georgian government issued a decree on Electronic Request and Proactive Publication of Public Information that obliges central government and its agencies to release information on their activities in electronic form, free of charge and in easy-to-use, open format. This decree helped to identify potential cases of corruption or false competition.
Similar measures were taken to stop corruption in public procurement that has been a long-standing problem in the Slovak Republic. Thanks to one of the acts that obliges almost all public contracts to be published online, contracting data has been published by the government since 2011. In order to prevent secret contracts, any unpublished contracts are declared unenforceable.
Legislation in Colombia demands that all government entities, at the national, department, and municipal levels, publish documents and information related to contracts. All contracting data (including preliminary studies and the contract itself) must be published via the Public Procurement Electronic System (SECOP).
In Nepal official governmental data was at first published in PDF format, then re-published and visualized, in order to make it easier to understand and facilitate citizens’ engagement. In Italy it is possible to track financial flows through the Contract Code - a unique identifier that all national and local agencies are required to use. Unfortunately, only small part of information on individual contracts is available as open data on the website of the National Anti-corruption Agency.
Countries fight against corruption and for transparency with different means, but they have common goal. You can use the list of Contract Data Portals to see the progress and gather or compare data. Since a lot of countries are actively implementing open contacting principles right now, it is important to pay attention and take action!