Open Contracting and Transparency in Public Procurement A Conversation with the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) [Articles & Interventions News Feature]

What is Open Contracting?
Open contracting is about publishing information concerning how the government buys goods, works and services. It is also about this information being available, accessible to the entire public and being timely.

Timeliness here means that the information is current and therefore the procurement process is still susceptible to intervention, if necessary.

Why is Open Contracting important? Why all the fuss about it?

According to Infrastructure Sector Transparency, an estimated 10-30% of the investments made in infrastructure are lost, due to mismanagement, inefficiency and corruption. Take a newspaper - any newspaper in this country. Flip through. You are very likely to find a corruption story related to procurement.

Open contracting ensures that watchdog institutions, such as civil society organizations, the media and citizens have the available information (in time) to spot procurement irregularities, question the process and stop the procurement process, if necessary. Without open contracting, we will be in the dark on these happenings. Open contracting gives us a chance to stop procurement related corruption, inefficiency and mismanagement.  It allows us to obtain value for money for high quality goods, works and services. It also promotes fair competition for service providers, especially small businesses.

Where is Ghana on the issue of Open Contracting?

There have been several measures put in place to ensure open contracting. Our flagship project is the Ghana Electronic Procurement System (GHANEPS), introduced by the Public Procurement Authority (PPA). The GHANEPs would eventually enable us to undertake the procurement process online, eliminating the human interface that is often the precursor for corruption.

It would appear Ghana has found a panacea in the GHANEPs then, right?

Not quite. An electronic procurement platform like the GHANEPs is a monumental open contracting tool. However, the platform does not inherently stop inefficiency, mismanagement and corruption in procurement. It is up to stakeholders such as civil society organizations, the media and citizens to educate themselves on the workings of the platform and to scrutinize the information on GHANEPs in order to spot procurement irregularities and draw attention to it. Without interest in the GHANEPs and the capacity of stakeholders to understand, analyse and utilize the information on the platform; it will not provide any value in the fight against procurement related irregularities.

What role is the GACC playing in all of this?

The Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) continues to drive interest in the GHANEPs. With funding support from the Hewlett Foundation via the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC), we have invited the PPA to conduct training for public officials, the media, civil society organizations and citizens on the GHANEPs, and how to utilize the platform.

We also continue to lead various interventions to increase open contracting in Ghana, and in the sub-region (Sierra Leone and Benin); with support from donors such as the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and the Open Society Foundation, and the US Embassy.

Faustina Djabatey & Bright Sowu 

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