Understanding Open Contracting

May 26, 2016

The most useful tool to address and tackle the issue of corruption in any society is radical transparency. Institutional opacity and absence of responsiveness strengthen misappropriation of public funds. Openness and accountability in governance empower the people to participate fully in policy decision processes. Openness can be accomplished when governance is inclusive and citizens can access public documents without any difficulty. Government operations should be open to the people for scrutiny to enable feedback. Every government official must indeed accept their assignments as duty bearers, elected to serve in the interest of the citizens.

Open knowledge of how taxpayers’ money are disbursed is crucial to the development of every society. It is the interest of both the government and the governed to promote the understanding of procurement processes, contract award processes; contract cost, bidders information and who monitors the contract implementation. Information about who awards a government contract and the list of bidders should be readily available on a public domain, where every citizen can access and understand its details. Disclosure of information in an appropriate format enhances citizens participation in governance issues; this consequently discourages issues of misappropriation of funds and contract inflation which are two biggest forms of corruption in Nigeria.

The open contracting principle requires timely, current, routine publication of enough information about the formation, award, execution, performance and other bodies involved in the contract process. It is built around existing norms and conventions related to access to information, transparency, social accountability and other components of good governance.

The idea of Open Contracting spurs the government to administer projects in full view of the people. The two components of Open Contracting are Public Disclosure and Public Participation. The Open Contracting principles are similar to the Open Government principles; both initiatives seek to change the culture of governance with a proactive disclosure of information and citizens’ participation.

The OCDS is an initiative of the Open Contracting Partnership founded in 2012 by a group of organizations and individuals. The Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) enables disclosure of data and documents at all stages of the contracting process by defining a common data model. This standard was created to support organizations in increasing contracting transparency, and allows for deeper analysis of contracting data by a wide range of users. According to the Open Contract Data Standard, an estimated $9.5 trillion was spent globally on public procurement with no availability of contract information for public scrutiny.

Embracing Open Contracting will ultimately improve service delivery, enhance business opportunities, reduce corruption in procurement sector and improve governance among others.