Open Contracting: Going Granular for Increased Transparency and Accountability
Knowing where aid projects are located is important for making aid allocation decisions and evaluating the effectiveness of development projects. But if you want to know what is actually happening on the ground, you can’t stop there. But really detailed information about how projects are being implemented is typically only held by the people who implement these projects. Public contract information, however, offers a wealth of information about who is implementing which activities in which places with how much money – if you can access it. But much contract-level data is not yet publicly available, and if it is publicly available, it is not typically published in a form that is easy to download and analyze. Realizing the potential value of public contract information, coalitions like the Open Contracting Partnership and Stop Secret Contracts are working to make contract data more open, accessible, and useful around the world. Having easy access to procurement information will help move the development conversation from one about what is happening where to one about how resources are being allocated and projects are being implemented on the ground.
To test the usefulness of sub-national open contracting data published in a standard format, AidData, in collaboration with the Open Aid Partnership (OAP) and the World Bank Institute (WBI), led the Open Aid-Open Contracting effort. Our goal was to create one of the first country-level Open Contracting datasets using the core principles of the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS). The program worked to make contract information more useful to a wide variety of stakeholders, including government, donors, civil society, and the private sector, by expanding both the breadth and depth of contract information publicly available in Nepal and to promote an active community of practice that will use the data for a variety of purposes.
Our Open Aid-Open Contracting work in 2014 built upon a pilot conducted in 2013. According to Dustin Homer, the AidData Project Manager, “Our 2013 pilot project was a starting point. We wanted to continue pushing the boundaries of open contracting—by demonstrating the utility of the Open Contracting Data Standard, we hope to spark an interest in and an appetite for open contracting writ large.”
Making Data Useful & Building a Community of Practice Around Open Contract Data in Nepal
To maximize the value of this effort, AidData sought government ministry partners whose projects represented a substantial proportion of foreign aid to Nepal and who had active, public e-procurement portals. Ultimately, we partnered with Nepal’s Public Procurement Monitoring Office (PPMO), as well as the Department of Roads (DOR), the Nepal Electrical Authority (NEA), and the Department of Local Infrastructure Development and Agriculture Roads (DoLIDAR). The projects conducted by these agencies represent a large proportion of on-budget government aid. Tracking these contracts through the procurement process and adding rich geographic information from contracts paints a clearer picture of how large aid projects are programmed. The results of this project were presented today at a workshop co-hosted by PPMO, the World Bank, OAP and AidData. Over 50 participants from government, donors, civil society, and the private sector joined our discussion about the future of Open Contracting in Nepal.
The maps below provide two different ways of comparing contracting volume: the first by number of contracts (aggregated to the ADM2 level), the second by total estimated contract value (aggregated to the ADM3 level, overlaid with available point locations at the ADM4 level).
Also at today’s workshop, our partner Open Nepal demoed a public dashboard that shows how this contract data can be made more accessible to and useful for any interested citizen, civil society leader, implementer, or government official. Today’s workshop followed a kick-off event in April, where sixty-five representatives from government agencies, leading civil society organizations, and the private sector gathered begin work on the program. Since then, members of the team have worked to make information that was already publicly available more useful for the government and citizens of Nepal, to build a community of practice that will sustain the efforts, and to build the demand that will lead to increased availability of open contracting data.
What’s Ahead for Implementation of the OCDS?
The work conducted over the course of the last five months represents a proof of concept for how the Open Contracting Data Standard can be implemented by a developing country, and how that information can be put into a format that is broadly useful. This is a departure point for the OCDS, not the destination point. We hope you’ll stay tuned as we continue this conversation and share what we learned in Nepal over the coming months.
Rebecca Latourell is a Policy Specialist with AidData. Dustin Homer is a Project Manager with AidData.