Next steps for Implementing Open Contracting in Nigeria
By Seember Nyager
In the last nine years, considerable work has been done by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) in promoting public procurement reforms in Nigeria. Having led the process for the development standard bidding documents and manuals, sustained the publication of a list of high value contracts awarded, invested in the continuous development of a professional procurement cadre within the public service, a necessary next step required of BPP is to ensure that procurement information across every stage in the contracting process is adequately linked to the public services and infrastructure for which contracts are being awarded. For it is in achieving efficient public service delivery that our procurement reforms begin to make the most sense to Nigerians. In the light of this, there is need to inculcate within the public procurement value chain the utilization of the Open Contracting Data Standards (OCDS). The recent commitment by the Nigerian Government to implement the OCDS is a good first step. Beyond the commitment, it is time that we purposefully work towards its implementation. Now that the budget has been passed, there is no better time to commence pilots that mainstream the OCDS across the public procurement value chain.
The OCDS matters to Nigeria because we need to develop a system that enables us openly link budget and procurement data to public services; thus encouraging participation, disclosure and entrenching public accountability. The OCDS has mapped all stages in the contracting process from conception to project delivery and created uniform standards that enable links to be drawn. If the OCDS is adopted and further enabled by automated analytical tools, it becomes a veritable tool to enable the Nigerian Government and other stakeholders easily discover red flags in the system timeously; and prevent them. Then we stand a better chance in receiving value when we seek medical access or when we attend public educational institutions.
The president’s statement at the London Anti-corruption summit gives an indication of priority sectors within which the OCDS will first be piloted; these are Health, Education, Power, oil and gas. Fortunately there is also a good locally built demonstration of how the OCDS can be utilised across the public service.
Budeshi is a platform that primarily demonstrates how and why the OCDS serves as a useful framework to capture budget and procurement data and make use of that data to track public service delivery and serves as a useful guide and model to the Nigerian Government in its quest to adopt the OCDS.
As a contribution to enabling Nigeria adopt the Open Contracting data standards, an Open contracting scoping study commissioned by Hivos International and the Open Contracting Partnership would be validated on the 5th of July, 2016. This provides a great opportunity for key public institutions and other stakeholders to agree on the next steps for implementing the OCDS; given the findings from the scoping study.
As my colleagues and I at PPDC continue discussions with the BPP and other public institutions, we shall also be meeting with the Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), to discuss mainstreaming the OCDS within the sub-sector. In addition to the fact that UBEC falls within the priority sector of Education within which the pilots of the OCDS are focused, our selection of UBEC is on the basis that increasingly, and in comparison with other public institutions, UBEC provides us with more comprehensive datasets and we believe that there is a greater readiness in the commission, to integrate public finance data, and to demonstrate how such a system can increase accountability in the delivery of Basic Education services. Ramadan Kareem!