From disclosure to impact: Deepening and Broadening Open Contracting in Africa

Africa Freedom of Information Centre has received more support from the William + Flora Hewlett Foundation for three years, to deepen and broaden Open Contracting in Africa. The project will support AFIC and its members to promote the performance of public contracts in targeted sectors in Malawi, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, and Nigeria with a focus on improving value for money, service delivery, fair business practices as well as addressing fraud, collusion, and corruption in public contracting.

We continue to see progress in the adoption of Open Contracting practices across Africa. Most recently, the 12th East Africa Procurement Forum held in Arusha, Tanzania in 2019 adopted a resolution to implement open contracting and promote CSO monitoring of contracts.

Malawi, Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana have prioritized open contracting in their respective Open Government Partnership National Action Plans. In addition, all the governments in the project countries have made efforts to strengthen disclosure by proactively publishing data on respective portals and some are moving towards e-procurement with Open Contracting Data Standards as part of the design.

The Public Procurement Regulatory Authority of  Kenya invited AFIC to support their open contracting efforts by training personnel on OCDS as well as the development of tools to promote data use. In Uganda, the government launched a collaborative framework for Civil Society Organizations monitoring of contracts and most recently, developed a contract monitoring tool to be used by citizens to track the execution of contracts.

Governments rely on contractual arrangements to provide public goods and achieve development goals. Although contracting is commonly associated with public procurement for purchasing goods and services, the concept also covers other forms of contractual arrangements such as concession arrangements, which are typically used for the management of natural resources, or public-private partnerships which consist of long term cooperative institutional arrangements between public and private actors to provide public services/manage large infrastructure projects for the provision of public services.

Such contractual arrangements face similar challenges of governance and transparency at all stages of the contract management process, from the awarding process to the negotiation of the terms of the contract and the monitoring and evaluation of contract implementation.

This means that citizens frequently fail to get full value for these deals, due to lack of knowledge, capacity, and technical expertise, and poor access to information or corrupt individuals operating on their own rather than in the public interest within the weak public and institutional environments.

“AFIC will also continue to monitor and support the realization of open contracting commitments through Open Government Partnership National Action Plans, like those made by Kenya, Liberia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria so far, as well as those on improving access to procurement-related information as in Malawi, Tunisia, and Ivory Coast. As recently as April 2015, no African country had committed to open public contracts in their Open Government Partnership National Action Plans, so these new commitments are an encouraging step towards promoting integrity in public procurement through citizen engagement across the region.

The more we see open contracting in Africa, the greater the opportunities will be for efficient procurement management, harmonization of systems across countries, and achieving value for money on public projects and services. The direct impact will be better services delivered to citizens.” Gilbert Sendugwa, Executive Director, Africa Freedom of Information Centre

The concept of open contracting is emerging as a strategy to increase contract transparency and monitoring, with major expected benefits in terms of quality of governance, better value for money, reduced corruption, increased service delivery, and better development outcomes.

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