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Open Tender: A data-driven approach to risk detection and early warning in public procurement

Corruption is the silent destruction of a nation!


In countries worldwide, it has been shown that when there’s corruption in politics and economics, many people suffer. Corrupt governments stifle economic growth by diverting resources away from programs that benefit society as a whole; this means less access to education, healthcare, and other essential social services for citizens who live in these conditions—a major setback if we want future generations to be bright-eyed and hopeful!


Furthermore, when money is not spent properly (or is stolen), poverty worsens because fewer resources move into destitute communities. With so much damage done by dishonest officials, it is evident why governments must be deliberate in combating this scourge.


President Yoweri Museveni referred to corruption as “Public Enemy No. 1” in his 2019 State of the Nation address, seeing it as the last remaining impediment to Uganda’s growth (State House of Uganda, 2019; Daily Monitor, 2019a).

Museveni During the State of the Nation Address 2019

One out of every three dollars the government spends is on a contract with a business.

An integrity survey by the PPDA found that 69.8% of service providers surveyed agreed that corruption influenced procurement while figures presented by the Inspectorate of Government reveal that corruption in public contracting amounts to 9.4% of the total value of contracts. This is equivalent to 2.08 trillion or USD 571.8 million.  According to the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA), public procurement accounts for more than 55% of the national budget. In 2019, this was equivalent to UGX 22.2 trillion or USD 6 billion. As a result, public procurement is one of the most vulnerable government activities to corruption.

 
Public procurement of infrastructure projects, for example, is one of the key areas where the public sector and private sector interact financially; it is a prime candidate for corrupt activity, cronyism, and favouritism, as well as outright bribery. Corruption in procurement in Uganda manifests itself in unnecessary projects, substandard work or unnecessarily expensive work; the diversion of resources; and unjustified or unexpected price increases. While major principles that govern public procurement, including transparency, fairness, and competition (OECD, 2017), apply consistently, inefficiencies in public infrastructure procurement enclosed by unnecessary bribes resulting from a lack of information have increased in Uganda.

 One of the most practical methods to address this problem in public procurement and enhance transparency and accountability is to open up and disclose public procurement data. Open Contracting initiatives, for example, have the potential to transform all of this.

We can change how business is done when all stakeholders access public procurement information. We can do this by engaging stakeholders from government, business, and civil society to collaborate on reforms, engage users, respond to feedback, and create open data and tools to drive systematic change. The Open Tender platform is one instrument to enhance various stakeholders’ access to public procurement information.

What is the Open Tender Platform?

Open Tender Uganda is an online platform built by the Global Transparency Institute in

collaboration with Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority – PPDA and Africa  Freedom of Information Centre -AFIC

The platform is part of the ‘Curbing Corruption in Public  Procurement‘ project, funded by the Global Integrity Anti-Corruption Evidence (ACE) programme. The ACE programme is funded by the Foreign Commonwealth Development Office, from the British People. 

 

Regulations on their own are insufficient to combat corruption

When done correctly, public procurement can help a government save money, deliver better public services, establish trust in its legitimacy, and foster a civic feeling that government institutions are committed to improving citizens’ lives. Procurement practices that are fair, transparent, and open also foster innovation and help economic growth by allowing for broad participation.

The Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA)’s primary goal is to promote service delivery through effective public procurement and disposal system regulation. This mission, however, will be thwarted if public procurement is hampered by corruption, in which public officials receive financial or other rewards in exchange for steering government contracts to preferred bidders; and/or cartels or supplier collusion, in which private contractors rig bids for public tenders through bid suppression, bid rotation, market or customer allocation, or cover bidding (‘bid rigging’ or ‘collusive tendering’).   These behaviours can increase the cost of procured goods and services or lower their quantity and quality, both detrimental to the public buyer and those who rely on critical public services. Additionally, they weaken the rule of law, allow for the entry of illicit proceeds into the legitimate economy, foster mistrust of government and public institutions, and damage society’s social fabric.

According to the most recent research (for example, Bosio et al. 2020), while governments have understandably attempted to mitigate corruption risks in public procurement through legal, policy and institutional frameworks on their own, they have largely been ineffective at reducing the risk of bribery. Therefore, more emphasis should be made on procurement practices, which are strongly linked to addressing corruption risks.

How Open Tender works

 

Open Tender Platform is a web-based portal that compiles and visualises public procurement tender information in Uganda. The development of the portal began in 2020 and was completed in November 2021. The platform measures published datasets against predefined metrics to calculate the level of integrity and transparency in the public procurement process.

It focuses on four primary areas:

Market analysis – An overview of public procurement markets, such as market volume broken down by sectors and years, as well as Good Procurement Scores.

Integrity – Analyse and benchmark the degree of integrity in public procurement tenders.

Transparency – Analyse and benchmark the degree of transparency in public procurement tenders.

Search – You can search for specific public procurement contracts by your interest criteria.

 

Integrity Indicators

The methodology of the Integrity Indicator is based on a public procurement corruption definition, which refers to the allocation and performance of public contracts by distorting the norms of open and fair government contracting to benefit some at the expense of all others. To put it another way, the goal of corruption is to prevent or distort competition to favour a specific, well-connected bidder.

 

Transparency Indicators

 

Transparency Indicators assess the availability of critical information in public procurement notices. These pieces of information are essential for monitoring the performance of public contracts. If they are not present, the procedure becomes less transparent and more difficult to monitor. A high result for the Transparency Indicators suggests a high level of transparency.

Where the data comes from.

The majority of the data used to calculate these indicators comes from the government procurement portal and publicly available datasets on the Africa Freedom of Information Centre Datasets portal. This data is merged with geographic information datasets and reformatted for standardisation and conformance to the Open Contracting Data Standard.

All the data published on the Open Tender Portal is licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC- SA 4.0. and is free for reuse by the public at no cost. The source of the platform is also available on Github.

To conclude, corruption is a serious challenge for governments, and overcoming it needs a well-balanced combination of remedies. One of the most effective ways to tackle this vice is through open contracting. However, for open contracting to succeed, three key pillars must be in place:


  1. That government will be transparent and proactively disclose procurement data

  2. This disclosed data will be used by that stakeholder through initiatives such as Open Tender.

  3. That from the use of this data constructive feedback can be given to govern.

Only with the establishment of all of these pillars will we be able to attain true value for money in public procurement.

For more information about the platform, get in touch at Info@govtransparency.eu.