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Publishing government contracts can bring many benefits: companies, especially new bidders, have a clearer idea of the goods and services they will bid to provide; governments benefit from increased competition among contractors and product quality; and civil society would have the opportunity to keep track on the value for the money invested and the service delivery. Despite the multiple benefits, contract publication also generates concerns regarding the potential administrative and financial and burden on contracting parties, issues of national and commercial secrecy, possible facilitation of collusion among bidders, and privacy issues, among others. The Publish What You Buy working group concluded with recommendation that adress these concerns and efficient ways to address them while maximizing transparency.
Chaired by senior fellow Charles Kenny, the Publish What You Buy working group includes members with expertise in government contracting issues across a wide range of sectors and geographic regions.
Working Group Members
Lesley Coldham, Tullow Oil, UK
Jeff Gutman, Brookings Institute
Patrick Heller, Natural Resource Governance Institute
Mathias Huter, Independent
Alan Hudson, Global Integrity
Michael Jarvis, World Bank Charles Kenny, CGD
Dubem Jideonwo, Initiative for Global Development
Tam Nguyen, Bechtel
Caroline Nicholas, UNCITRAL
Chrik Poortman, Construction Sector Transparency Initiative
Joe Powell, Open Government Partnership William Savedoff, CGD
Akilagpa Sawyerr, Laryea, Laryea & Co., P.C.
Marcos Siquera-Moraes, PPP unit, Minas Gerais
Gabriel Sipos, Transparency International
Tina Soereide, CMI, Norway
Chris Taggart, Open Corporates
Last night, the State Department released the latest batch of emails from Hillary Clinton's personal account related to her work as Secretary of State. The bad news: the content appears to reflect limited interest in international development. The good news is that the emails do suggest an early and high level interest in getting USAID to deliver better through improved contracting.
Gabriel Sípos, Samuel Spác and Martin Kollárik of Transparency International Slovakia have just published an important and useful evaluation of that country’s contract publication regime. The evaluation suggests proactive contract publication can be a popular, cheap, and effective tool for improving competition in government procurement.
In a blog post on the World Bank’s website, Marcos Siqueira lays out the case for total public contract transparency, including disclosure of unredacted contracts, associated financial deals, unredacted bids, unredacted amendments, performance reports, financial data of the project company, and fiscal commitments and risks.
From the article:
Government procurement is a $9.5 trillion industry, and supplying goods and services to the government is a core business function for thousands of companies around the world. In the U.S., contracts signed by both parties are usually not published, and are only released if someone files what is known as a freedom-of-information request with the relevant agency.
That’s inappropriate. Citizens paid for the services; they should know what they’re buying. But it is also a loss to the private sector. Keeping contracts hidden increases the cost and risk of bidding on government tenders, and so businesses should be leading the charge on contract transparency.
Read the article here
The CGD Working Group report on Publishing Government Contracts lays out the case for routine publication of government contracts, suggests approaches to maximize the impact and effectiveness of that publication, and addresses some common concerns about collusion, privacy, and commercial and national security.
Government procurement worldwide is worth around $9.5 trillion a year. Oil, gas, and mining rents (the gap between the price of the goods produced and the cost of production) amount to around $5 trillion, which is 4.8 percent of global GDP. Governments routinely sign multibillion-dollar contracts regarding the use of public property including those natural resources. The resulting contracts are public documents, for which default practice should be in favor of publication.
Government contracts regarding the use of public property and finances should be published by default. Many jurisdictions already require that contracts be made public in response to requests for the information; some now publish contracts proactively. Doing so helps new entrants compete in the market for public contracts, helps governments model their projects on other successful examples, and allows citizens greater insight into how their taxes are being spent. This provides a practical outline for reaping the benefits of open contracts while addressing legitimate concerns about costs, collusion, privacy, commercial secrecy, and national security.