The Future of Budeshi
By Seember Nyager
In preparation for visits to project sites where primary health care contracts are being executed, our procurement monitors having been adding contracting datasets to our locally built platform, Budeshi. Although we have been mobilizing and supporting procurement monitors to observe and report on the public procurement process for several years, the obstacles recorded in those years have far outweighed substantial reporting on procurement performance. As we have indicated elsewhere, the underlying challenge faced by procurement monitors can be traced to the difficulty in linking data gathered at various stages in the contracting process, because various formats have been used to represent a singular dataset set at various stages in the process. As a result, the procurement monitoring reports submitted often separate the pre-contract award stages from contract execution stages because it is difficult to link these stages together. Given our familiarity with the challenge of data incoherence, we very quickly recognized the value of the Open Contracting data standards to changing this narrative. And so by developing our local platform called Budeshi, we have been able to demonstrate what a more integrated contracting process would look like. For procurement monitors, this means that meaningful monitoring exercise can be achieved.
But that is only half of the story. Indeed, Budeshi as a standalone independent platform cannot be sustained if the systems that generate data on public contracting do not support its existence. Contracting data is generated from the public sector, whose duty it is to provide public services. In fact, the rigour of having to request for data and then convert it to the OCDS before any meaningful monitoring can be undertaken is indication that the reforms required to ensure data coherence go deeper than deploying a civic tech platform.
Thus, we keep reminding ourselves that Budeshi was primarily set up to demonstrate to the Nigerian Government and to every other Government that so desires, how and why the OCDS serves as a useful framework to link budget and procurement data to public services. Budeshi was never intended to take over the responsibility of Government and if data would support Government decision making, coherence and interoperability of data is a necessary step that must be adopted within the public sector. And it is in the adoption and implementation of the OCDS within Government that Budeshi derives its true success.
Recognizing the system-wide transformation that needs to take place, our concentration is on supporting the Bureau of Public Procurement, the Ministry of Budget and Planning and other key data-owning/controlling agencies in the implementation of the OCDS within Government. As part of this support, we are now working with the Bureau of Public Procurement and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) to pilot the OCDS in UBEC.
Whilst we keep celebrating the Government’s courage and open commitment to implement the open contracting data standards, we are also mindful of the work that lies ahead. Systems as well as cultural changes are required. There is need for mechanisms to ensure high data quality inputs at all times because the extent of the utility derived from implementing the OCDS would depend on the consistency of feeding the system with high quality data at every stage in the contracting process. Recognizing that various stages in the contracting data require the action of various units within the public sector, our support is also geared at encouraging coordination among data owning and controlling units; so that the OCDS is used to represent datasets across board. Our work would therefore seem more focused on “GovTech”
But what do these engagement plans mean for the future of Budeshi as an independent platform? Well, in addition to Budeshi’s transformational agenda, it is a living platform that demonstrates the utility of the OCDS, based on the latest version of the OCDS schema at every given point. By working very closely within the Open Contracting community, and with a commitment to research, Budeshi would continuously respond to local user needs for engaging and interacting with [OCDS] data; thus contributing to the adoption and advancement of the OCDS within the public sector. On a broader scale, Budeshi would keep making the case for what can be achieved by collectively deploying “Joined-up Data Standards” rather than every data-owning and controlling agency working in silos.
And so as we work with Government to pilot the OCDS in UBEC, and to develop a more robust framework for OCDS implementation in the public sector, procurement monitors are using data on Budeshi to trace procurement performance of primary health care centres and Al Majiri schools across the country. This monitoring exercise would form the basis of a procurement performance report which would be released on the 28th of September, 2016 to coincide with the Right to Know day and would be further proof of the utility, coherent data offers to tracing public service delivery.