Procurement plays a pivotal role in how public and donor funds are spent. Many bilateral and multilateral support agreements between the developed and developing countries and even within non-governmental organizations and throughout the aid chain are largely executed through the workings of the procurement system. An efficient procurement system has financial and developmental implications and affects millions of lives, in particular the very poorest in society. Studies have shown that public procurement in particular represents over 70% of national budgets in most developing countries and contributes about 25% to their Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Although procurement and government contracting by extension commands so much value in development in terms of the provision of social amenities like schools, hospitals, contraction of roads and bridges and other emergency response facilities in times of disasters, it remains one of the major corruption breeding areas which continues to be the bane of Africa and other developing countries. According to the Africa Union (2002), over 25% of Africa’s GDP-US$148 billion is lost to corruption annually.
The high level of corruption in this area is largely due to the extent of opacity that exists right from the process of tendering through to contract award and implementation stages. This poor access to information on government contracting is often supported by the absence of appropriate legislations and sometimes the inadequate technical expertise available among civil society to make reasonable use of these information to assist in the process of monitoring and evaluation of the performance of these contracts.
Considering the fact that these procurements are funded by either domestic or foreign taxpayers monies, it has become imperative that aid organizations and governments become more transparent and accountable to their stakeholders in all issues pertaining to their operations including contracts. It is therefore in the light of this that open contracting has assumed a significant place in recent development discourse among the donor community, civil society organizations and the wider citizenry of developing economies.
Open contracting in broad terms refers to the pro-active open publication of details of government contracts from the awarding process through to contract execution with a view to enhance transparency, accountability and good governance as well as aid effectiveness.
It is therefore with much pleasure that I dedicate this series to discuss in detail some of the inroads Africa is making in its quest to open up and share information on government contracts, the application of Open Contracting Data Standards 1.1 and other initiatives in my subsequent posts.