Back in June we reported on the Open Contracting Innovation Challenge – a competition run by the Open Contracting Partnership and the Open Data Institute to recognise ground-breaking data-driven ideas for improving public procurement. Open contracting is about using open data in public procurement to generate better value for government, increase competition and reduce corruption through better efficiency and transparency. All with an end sight of creating smarter and fairer government contracting that will ultimately have a positive impact on society.
The Innovation Challenge honours original ideas for managing, analysing and monitoring how governments buy goods and services, and encourages the emergence of cutting-edge approaches to publishing what gets bought, when, from whom, and for how much. In total, 88 teams from 40 countries representing every continent responded to the challenge, which was – How would you use data to strengthen the integrity and effectiveness of public procurement? The numbers themselves indicate just how much traction the theme is gaining.
During the challenge, the Open Contracting Partnership says it has seen a wealth of great new ideas come through to the award selection process. So, as well as rewarding the overall winner, the whole award process has stimulated the creation of some ground-breaking innovations. We wrote about each of the six finalists here, here and here.
Not only do we extend our congratulations to everyone who took part, but we are delighted to showcase the achievement of the overall winner which was recently announced …
Malaysian Project Telus
… a project which exposes political interests in public procurement. It highlights how open contracting can be a powerful tool to hold governments to account, even where little information is available to the public. In public procurement there is often limited transparency over who decides how public money is spent, who competes and wins, how the two are related or even how the process has been conducted. Although these kinds of question are gradually becoming more prevalent in the public eye.
This winning innovation, developed by Malaysian civic tech organisation, the Sinar Project, links contract data to other open databases to expose the business interests of politicians and public officials. This kind of information has often long been hidden, hard to retrieve or simply not shared, so ties or conflicts of interest do not often come to the fore, and if they do, they can be long after the contract has been awarded. So this is a real step change in driving how public money can be spent in a more transparent and efficient manner.
The Sinar Project converted more than 500,000 contracts to the Open Contracting Data Standard and standardized the information of more than 200,000 beneficial owners. Basically it is an online tool that imports and joins up open standards data for politically exposed persons (PEPs), beneficial ownership and procurement contracts, to expose political interests, accountable senior public officials and conflict of interests of procurement contracts.
The project clearly has great potential, and with the exposure and rewards that the Open Contracting Partnership and the Open Data Institute award bring, it is better placed to develop the tool further. Presently, Sinar is working on improving the robustness and the features of Telus to make it more user-friendly and easily deployable. But it is available for use by other countries now, and more information can be found from the firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting the site.
We look forward to more innovations for improving the world of public procurement, a theme Public Spend Forum is keen to promote, from open contracting in the years to come.