New data standard to help shine light on public procurement

Tuesday, 21 January 2014 16:30 GMT

A man types on a computer keyboard in Warsaw in this February 28, 2013 illustration file picture REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

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LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Transparency activists announced plans on Tuesday to create a common data standard that will help open up public contracts around the world to greater scrutiny and empower citizens to hold their governments to account.

Governments globally spend an estimated $9.5 trillion every year on public procurement but the contracts that govern that spending are often opaque or deliberately hidden from the public’s view, making it difficult for citizens to question them.

The standard will be developed by the Open Contracting Partnership (OCP), a group composed of transparency watchdogs, governments and the World Bank in partnership with the World Wide Web Foundation, a foundation that promotes the web as a public good. The work will be funded by The Omidyar Network, the philanthropic vehicle of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

“Open Contracting has the potential to enhance transparency and improve the lives of billions around the world,” Anne Jellema, head of the World Wide Web Foundation, said in a statement. “In order to realise its benefits, we must have a common standard to plan, manage and measure initiatives,”

Even when governments do release public procurement contracts to the public, they are often in formats that make the data difficult to read, manipulate and compare. The open contracting data standard will allow for comparisons and analysis across countries, industry sectors and regions, the OCP said.

“The Open Contracting Data Standard is a crucial step to ensuring that public contracting is truly public and that citizens can be active participants in the contracting processes that impact their lives and the lives of those in their communities,” Robert Hunja, manager of the World Bank Institute’s Open Government Practice and speaking on behalf of the OCP, said in a statement.

The OCP and the World Wide Web Foundation intend to deliver an initial version of the open contracting data standard by the end of 2014.

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