The last week of November 2019 marked a major convening for the Open Contracting movement in Africa. The Local Open Contracting Initiative (LOCI) was held for the first time on 26 November 2019 along the side lines of the East Africa Procurement Forum in Arusha, Tanzania. LOCI is an initiative that fosters, ideas and linking and learning between local government and civil society in various countries. The event brought together 24 delegates from Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi to exchange learning on open contracting with crucial lessons learnt in its implementation.
Makueni County’s commissioning of the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) platform, the passing of new Right to Information laws in Ghana and the formation of a multi-stakeholder engagement in Malawi and Nigeria signaled that the open contracting initiative is gradually gaining traction in Africa. Participants also shared challenges such as building trust between governments, civil society and private sector and resistance to change.
In mitigating some of these challenges participants noted that it’s important for stakeholders to understand bringing about change using existing systems does not mean imposing changes. Building relationships by maintaining constant engagements and creating a win-win environment for all was equally noted as the second approach. Innovative approaches to implement LOCI such as using arts and edutainment to promote open contracting, establishing resource centers, closing the feedback loop between citizens and enabling a culture of data sharing were equally lauded as progress.
Further to this, The East Africa Public Procurement Forum (EAPPF) delved on use of technology, legal frameworks, local content and open contracting as some of the main topics for discussion. During the second day of the EAPPF, LOCI representative and delegate from Uganda, Mr. Gilbert Sendugwa had an opportunity of presenting on a topic: ‘Involvement of Non-State Actors in Monitoring of Procurement Processes’. The presentation highlighted the case of open contracting in Uganda and how non-state actors were monitoring public projects. It was noted that this monitoring initiative was able to uncover issues such as existence of unplanned contracts; potential abuse of non-competitive procurement; collusion, supplier fraud; high failure rate as well as ghost projects. The presentation was able to make a case of how through open contracting, data analysis for decision making can easily be simplified and automated using technology.
On the last day of the event Hivos had an opportunity of addressing the EAPPF delegates, Hivos East Africa’s Open Contracting Program Manager; Africa Hope Muli was able to iterate Hivos’ commitment in ensuring success of Open Contracting in the region.
Hivos recognizes all the commitments and efforts and steps being taken in terms of advancing and opening up contracting in the region. We re-affirm our commitment and our support to open contracting and advancing transparency and integrity in public contracting
The forum was concluded with adoption of several resolutions which will be considered by the procurement authorities as resolutions for the 12th Public EAPPF. Among the recommended resolutions was the Open contracting adoption in the region.