Advocacy around open government reforms to date has largely revolved around the intrinsic value of transparency, accountability, and participation. In a resource-constrained environment, development practitioners, policy makers, and citizens increasingly have to be more judicious. Adopting new methods or tools – such as open contracting mechanisms, open data dashboards and participatory budgeting – is not free.
I have worked on public procurement and governance for most of my life. But I have never been more excited to finally have a solution at hand that has potential to change the legacy of opaqueness, fraud and lack of effectiveness in public contracting in many African countries.
Africa still need billions in investments to build infrastructure and provide quality services to its citizens, many of them vital: health care centers, food for school children, water services and road to help farmers market their produce. Investments as part of the Sustainable Development Goals in infrastructure alone carries a price tag nearly $100 billion a year. Unfortunately, like in many countries around the world, public contracting in Africa has been characterized by poor planning, corruption in picking contractors and suppliers and contracts are poorly managed.
But the good news is that this is changing. The series of blogs I’m kicking off will highlight the shifting of the norm towards open contracting in Africa.
Fighting corruption was at the center of the 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia that ended in September. Not surprisingly, Open Contracting, an approach to bring deals between governments and businesses into the open, was identified as a key tool in fighting corruption in the Putrajaya Declaration that emerged from the Conference.
As contracts cut across sectors, every service a government provides can be affected by it. Life saving medicines, and schools buildings, and infrastructure projects such as roads, ports, bridges, estimated at US $1 trillion worth, provide opportunities for agreements behind closed doors that can harm societies in the long-term.
Public procurement is a linchpin for good governance and effective public service delivery, both of which are critical to the sustainable development of Africa. In many countries throughout the region, strengthening procurement to address weaknesses in public sector governance has become a priority.
- Public Integrity and Openness Department
- Public contracting
- Open Contracting
- open contracting data standard
- Public Sector Governance
- Public Service Delivery
- Public Procurement
- Public Sector and Governance
- The World Region
Building trust between citizens and governments is crucial to successfully address, in a collaborative and engaged manner, many of the issues that affect the everyday lives of citizens, like corruption, government inefficiency and lack of service delivery.
Recent data, however, has shown that .
In fact the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer stated that the number of “truster countries” are at an all-time low, reflecting a general decline of people’s trust in institutions of governments, NGOs, business and media.
With preparations for the G8 Summit in June in full swing, British Prime Minister David Cameron has made clear that transparency will be a key theme and within that a focus on transparency not just in the extractives sector but around land more broadly. This is in large part a response to concerns around the proliferation of large scale land acquisitions – the “land grab” phenomenon. Certainly that topic dominated discussion at the World Bank’s annual Land and Poverty conference this month.
I just returned from an intense but inspiring week in London with my team, to meet with the open contracting steering group and other committed practitioners, to shape how we will take open contracting forward.
As someone who has worked on procurement and contracting his whole life, it has been heartening for me to see such strong interest and engagement around open contracting. Now that I am back from London, I’d like to take the opportunity to reflect on some of the inspiring conversations that I had over the last few days and to share some important decisions that the open contracting steering group has made.
Let me begin with the heart of open contracting – the open contracting principles. At the first global meeting for open contracting in South Africa, October 2012, practitioners called for overarching principles to define how open contracting will work in practice.
After an impressive turnout in Monday’s presidential elections, one thing is clear about Kenya: citizens are energized and ready to participate in shaping the future of their country.
Despite concerns of violence, voters in Kenya were undeterred and turned out in historic numbers Monday - over 70% participation - to cast ballots in the country’s first presidential election since 2007.
The remarkable level of participation had election officials calling the turnout “tremendous,” as polling places were kept open hours later than scheduled to accommodate lines that stretched “nearly a mile long.” Voters formed lines at polling places well before 6:00 a.m. when the polls opened, and many waited for up to 10 hours to cast their ballots.
While this election is a significant success, its true impact on the everyday lives of Kenyans will depend of how the new administration governs. Kenyans should be able to participate in the decision-making processes of their new government in as robust of a manner as they did when electing it.
This will be particularly important as Kenya embraces fairly radical decentralization of political and resource management to the county level as mandated by the new constitution. More open and participatory processes will be crucial to maintaining accountability and effectiveness at the county level.