Corruption is endemic in Nigeria and Africa in general and has become an anathema to development. The award-winning Nigeria Open Contracting Portal is a solution developed to curb the menace of corruption, achieve transparency and openness as well as facilitate citizen engagement.
As at 2016, Nigeria is ranked 31st from the bottom in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index. In 2012, Nigeria was estimated to have lost about $400 billion to corruption. According to the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Crimes Commission (ICPC), 60% of corruption cases in Nigeria are procurement related. In a recent report by the Economist, it was indicated that an investigation revealed that about $15 billion was estimated to have been diverted by the previous regime through dodgy arms procurement.
It is with these devastating statistics in mind that the Nigeria Open Contracting Portal was conceptualized. The portal publishes procurement records and information on all stages of the procurement process, from planning through advertisement, tendering and award. Through the portal, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) submit their procurement plans and records to include information such as project title, cost, name of vendor, procurement method, project location, and implementation status. The two crucial features on the portal are the contract administration and citizen feedback. Contract administration has always been a major challenge in Nigeria as we have a lot of prevalent cases of abandoned projects scattered all over the country which were caused by several factors principally due to lack of proper project monitoring and evaluation. With the Nigeria Open Contracting Portal, we aim at reducing significantly the cases of abandoned projects through proper record management and project monitoring. The other aspect is citizen engagement which is also very important. Through the Nigeria Open Contracting Portal, citizens can be able to track projects in their localities and monitor implementation. They can access the portal and view details about contracts and projects including the cost, name of vendor and status. They can also report and give feedback directly on the quality of delivery and whether the project was not even delivered as claimed by the vendor.
The portal aims at making procurement data and records open and accessible to all citizens. Procurement information from more that 700 Ministries, Departments and Agencies will be made available in the portal. The information include name of the contractor, contract amount, scope of work, duration and location of the project. The portal conforms with global Open Contracting Data Standards (OCDS) and has a feature for citizen engagement and feedback mechanism whereby citizens can report project performance. The OCDS mandates, for example, that all contracts have unique ID by which they can be identified and tracked.
The portal was developed in a co-creation process together with Civil Society Organizations. Their input was critical as they have closer tie with the citizens. The portal is also part of Nigeria's commitment in the National Action Plan for the open Government Partnership (OGP) of which Nigeria is a member.
So far, a Federal Government Circular has been issued mandating all government MDAs to use the portal and the portal is already being populated with data. We are now working on data analysis to establish trends in government spending, impact of projects on communities and how government can do things differently based on the feedback available.
The benefits of the portal are numerous to all stakeholders ranging from government, civil society organizations, private sector and more importantly the citizens. The government becomes more transparent, civil society become more effective in project monitoring, the private sector has access to more information for research and the citizens have more information to engage government.
The Nigeria Open Contracting Portal won a global innovation award in 2017 organized by the Open Contracting Partnership and Open Data Institute.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Open Contracting is a global movement and this is the first initiative in Nigeria. Before now, procurement information is not often disclosed and numerous corrupt practices thrive as a result. Even with the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), Ministries, Departments and Agencies are still reluctant to release procurement information. The compelling aspect of this initiative is that this information is now made available in a central portal and it employs Information and Communications Technology to enable ordinary citizens in remote areas to have access to procurement information and engage government for the delivery of projects
The citizen engagement feature is also innovation. Prior to this portal, there is no platform for citizens to give a direct feedback on project status which in effect explains the incessant cases of abandoned projects as contractors claim to have done projects and there was no way to confirm.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The portal was developed in 2017 in a co-creation process between government and civil society. The portal was developed to address the problem of unavailability and lack of access to procurement data and information in Nigeria which is believed to aid corruption in the sector. The portal is modelled in conformity with the Open Contracting Data Standards (OCDS) which is a global standard for presenting contracting data which is expected to be accessible, readable and reusable. The Bureau of Public Procurement in Nigeria is committed to the project and has sought the technical support of the Open Contracting Partnership (OCP). Federal Government circular has since being issued to more than 700 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) mandating them to use the portal. There is a substantial compliance as the portal keeps on growing with data from the MDAs. Training and sensitization is also on-going so as to address the issue of capacity and technical know-how in the use of the portal
Collaborations & Partnerships
The portal was conceptualized by the Bureau of Public Procurement, representing government. However, development was through co-creation process, in conjunction with different stakeholders. Civil Society Organizations, especially those working on public procurement, project monitoring and fiscal transparency provided useful input. We also interacted with key government ministries and agencies on data provision and availability. Technical support was provided by the Open Contracting Partnership.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Citizens are the primary users of the portal. they have access to a vast data on project and they can report implementation status. Government derives benefit in the sense that citizens have more trust in government and transparency and openness is achieved. Civil Society Organizations become more active and will be able to more effectively monitor projects and measure government's transparency efforts. The private sector has more data for research, projections and statistics.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
The portal has been well received as a solution that is capable of combating corruption in Nigeria's public procurement sector. It won Government Innovation Award and was presented at the Africa Open Data Conference in Accra in July, 2017 and has the potential of inspiring other African countries to implement similar initiative. The stakeholders, including the Civil Society Organizations are also enthusiastic about the initiative. The initiative when adopted by other African countries will go a long way in institutionalizing transparency and accountability in the continent while significantly reducing incidences of corruption, especially in public procurement. Officers in Ministries and Agencies are excited about the portal as it makes them to be proactive in disclosure of procurement information. With the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, citizens can request for information, procurement records inclusive. However, with the portal, such information are made readily available.
Challenges and Failures
Initial challenges encountered include adjusting to the new Open Contracting Data Standards (OCDS) which is an improved method for presenting procurement data and information away from the conventional method. Another challenge was trying to secure stakeholder buy in and understanding in respect of the new system. Capacity building for the personnel was also an issue. However, we have been able to address most of the issues as we progress in implementation.
Conditions for Success
Strong political will is necessary to give a political backing for the initiative. We are lucky anti-corruption is one of the key focus of the present administration. Infrastructure is also critical and government must invest heavily on that. The Bureau has a dedicated data-centre which we are working to expand. We have policies and regulations in place. Already the Public Procurement Act is emphatic on transparency, accountability and efficiency. Regulations are also in place and a Federal Government Circular has been issued for effective use of the portal by ministries and agencies. Finance and budgeting are also important and the Bureau is exploring various funding sources to sustain the portal. Capacity Building, training and sensitization is on-going.
The portal was presented at the Africa Open Data Conference in Accra in July, 2017. The portal was also showcased in Sierra-Leone. Other African countries are also showing interest in the portal.
The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is about transparency and accountability by government across all sectors. Nigeria is a member of the OGP and the Open Contracting Portal is part of the country's commitment in the OGP National Action Plan. Other organizations are also working on openness and transparency as it relates to their mandate and statutory responsibility. The Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) is working on transparency and openness in the extractive sector while the Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning is working on Open Budgeting.
In the 21st century, corruption must be fought digitally using innovative solutions. We believe that employing Information and Communications Technology to combat corruption will make it more effective and would make governments all over the world to be more accountable to the citizens.
We also learnt that citizens have more trust in government when they are engaged in, in the governance process and they have a feedback and a stake in government activities.
- Implementation - making the innovation happen
23 October 2017