The Sunlight Foundation shines a light on global procurement transparency

The Sunlight Foundation is a nonpartisan nonprofit based in the US and founded in 2006 that “uses the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency. We do so by creating tools, open data, policy recommendations, journalism and grant opportunities to dramatically expand access to vital government information to create accountability of our public officials”.

They’ve just published some research carried out over the last few months looking at public sector procurement transparency across different countries.  They haven’t ranked countries   - “This would have been an endless - and probably pointless - effort. Our motive behind mapping the global landscape of procurement disclosure trends was to find best practices, powerful online tools and also to gain inspiration for Sunlight’s recently released open data guidelines for procurements”.

The research looks at whether various parts of the procurement process and various documents within it are open to scrutiny. 25 of the 54 countries they approached responded – its a shame perhaps that except for Japan and Uganda, all the respondents are from Europe or the Americas, especially given where much of the world’s procurement corruption is centred.

However, it is still an interesting piece of work, and here are some of their key initial findings:

•  Procedural and pre-award information is almost always disclosed - a good sign for competition.

•  Contract awards and tender documents are also published in a reasonable manner.

•  Keeping track of the procurement process after the award stage is almost impossible in most countries - a bad sign for oversight.

•  Data is mostly available as individual documents in PDFs, hardly any bulk or machine-readable data disclosure.

•  There’s an increasing number of online tools built around procurement data (mostly for oversight purposes), an even though the potential is huge, only a few try to mix procurement info with other datasets or provide red-flagging mechanisms to detect waste, fraud or other types of wrong doing.

We’ll try and come back to this in more detail, but if you’re into public procurement and / or transparency issues, do take a look here at their website and this work.

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