Corruption in public procurement and contracting manifests itself in unnecessary projects, substandard and unnecessarily expensive work, the diversion of resources, and unjustified or unexpected price increases resulting in inequity and inequality. In the absence of appropriate accountability mechanisms in this strategic area, ghost projects will be funded, poor quality roads, schools and hospitals will be built, while essential medicines and services will not be delivered.
Access to Information legal framework is recognised to advance disclosure of procurement data and an enabler of public participation which are two components of the open contracting approach. In the other way around, open contracting movement and initiatives have triggered more reflection around access to information and push for adoption and implementation of the access to information legal framework. This close relationship between open contracting and access to information has been reflected in the strategy and work of AFIC membership.
Since 2011 AFIC has worked with public, private and civil society actors in Africa promoting the enhancement of disclosure (access to information) and citizen participation in all stages of public contracting with the ultimate objective of increasing value for money in public contracts. During AFIC’s 2016 General Assembly, a strategic decision to set up a Working Group (WG) on open contracting was made. The goal of the working group is to provide the leadership, coordination, conceptual and technical skills to review the current architecture of the open contracting agenda across Africa.
Objectives of the working group:
- To strengthen understanding of the critical importance of access to and use of information on open contracting, and implementation activities within AFIC membership.
- To support member campaigns for open contracting in respective countries through the effective application of access to information laws, principles and practices.
- To promote knowledge and experience sharing in Africa on the intersection between access to information and open contracting
- To advance the effective application of access to information laws, principles and practices in the open contracting sector on various platforms in Africa and around the world.
The working group is constituted by 11 members and Hivos has already expressed the wish to participate as an observatory:
- Public and Private Development Centre (Convener) – Nigeria
- Media Rights Agenda – Nigeria
- Kenyan Section of International Commission of Jurists – Kenya
- Article 19 East Africa – Kenya
- Society for Democratic Initiatives – Sierra Leone
- Open Democracy Advice Centre – South Africa
- Center for Human Rights and Democracy
- Ghana Anticorruption Coalition – Ghana
- Centre for Human Rights Rehabilitation – Malawi
- AFIC (Secretariat) – Uganda
- Open Contracting Partnership
Members of the WG have elaborated specific country action plans that highlight the priorities to advance open contracting in Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Uganda and Ghana. These documents partly inspired from the OGP National plan and the specific commitments of respective government towards open contracting will serve as a roadmap for civil society and WG members to fundraise for and implement open contracting projects and programmes.
PPDC, one of the WG member in Nigeria, as elaborated the Budeshi platform. It is a tool using the power of data to expose, understand, and fix problems in contracting, as well as to keep a record of the use of public funds through public procurement. Budeshi will be used by citizens and civil society to analyse data and identify red flags in the contracting process which will support monitoring of execution of contracts on the ground for accuracy of the data disseminated by procuring entities. This will, in turn, empower the citizens to provide feedback to public entities and oversight authorities based on public and evidence-based information. Initially implemented in Nigeria by PPDC, the Budeshi platform was replicated in Uganda, Kenya and Malawi.
Also under the emulation and sharing of knowledge and experience created by the WG dynamic, AFIC embarked on the alignment of the Ugandan Government Public Procurement (GPP) to the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS).
In the same view of sharing knowledge and experience, the WG publishes every month a newsletter to provide the latest news on initiatives, achievements and resources in respect of open contracting in Africa.