Open Contracting: Paving the Way for Open Government in Nepal?

"The current initiative of Public Procurement Monitoring Office to open-up contracting data is a fresh start among all the government agencies in Nepal to adopt Open Government Data", said chief commissioner of the National Information Commission, Krishnahari Baskota, at the January workshop on Procurement Transparency in Nepal through Open Data Management..

In the recent years, open contracting is being recognized as an innovative and effective open government solution. In the 2016 Open Government Partnership summit held in December in Paris, 15 OGP member countries made commitments to open up their public contracts as a way to make governments more open and participative. Although Nepal has not signed up to the OGP yet open government data is gradually gaining traction in Nepal as evident by the government’s engagement in open government data discourses and events. At this exciting time when enthusiasm for open government data in Nepal is picking up, the seeds of open contracting have also been sown.  

Nepal's Public Procurement Act 2008 mandated public agencies to conduct procurements through electronic procurement portals. In practice, this meant public agencies were required to use their electronic procurement portals to carry out procurement activities while those without websites were required to use the website of the Public Procurement Monitoring Office (PPMO). The amendment to its Rule in 2010 has now provisioned PPMO to establish a central e-procurement portal to operate and manage all public procurements. Furthermore, PPMO has taken an extra step to publicly open data related to individual procurements through the recently announced 'Public Procurement Transparency Initiative in Nepal' (PPTIN) - implemented in collaboration with the Open Contracting Partnership. Young Innovations has been providing technical support and facilitation to this initiative. This pioneering initiative aims to facilitate strategic disclosure of public procurement data following the Open Contracting Data Standards (OCDS), and encourage its use among various key stakeholders to increase fairness, integrity and effectiveness of the procurement system in Nepal. 

As announced in the workshop, 'Procurement Transparency in Nepal through Open Data Management' jointly hosted by PPMO and Open Contracting Partnership in January this year, "all public agencies will be mandated to carry out their procurement process through the electronic government procurement system hosted by the PPMO".  This would mean all information related to public procurement (such as tender notices, bidding, awards and implementation of contracts) will be stored in the electronic government procurement system. Such data will be analysed  based on the Open Contracting Data Standards (OCDS) and disseminated through a public portal in open format. This enables the demand side actors such as civil society, private sector and media as well as the supply sides to freely use the data in their work.

Diagram Reference: Bibhusan Bista, CEO, Young Innovations

Disclosure of public contracting data using the open contracting data standard through the new open contracting portal would allow linking-up of multiple datasets for interoperability. Improved accessibility of contracting data of all sectors and at all stages of public contracting could enable better monitoring of public contracts by government as well as civil society and aid effective management of public resources while improving service delivery.  It could help create fairer competitions for private businesses and build trust of citizens on public contracting.

The possibilities are numerous, but we are yet to witness how the open contracting initiative will roll out in Nepal and what impacts it will have in governance of public contracts. But there are some examples where countries have already implemented open contracting successfully which could be a learning opportunity for Nepal. For instance, in Nigeria an open contracting initiative- Budeshi - is enabling the linking of procurement and budget data to identify loopholes in the contracting process. In the Philippines the National Textbook Delivery Programme used citizen participation to ensure transparency of the bidding process, inspect the quantity and quality of the textbooks being produced, and monitor that thecorrect number of books were delivered. Similarly, Ukraine's ProZorro has generated 12% savings for the government while increasing competition and boosting confidence in procurement. A recently released report 'Making the case for open contracting in health care procurement' also summarizes interesting success cases from Honduras, Nigeria and Ukraine.

Find out more about open contracting at the Open Data Day event on Saturday 4th March.