Since we started our new research initiative around procurement in March, we’ve spent months doing research into policies and data availability relating to procurement at all levels of government, as well as interviewing all kinds of people on the subject. Today we’re excited to launch the culmination of our efforts so far, as well as an extension of Sunlight’s previous work on our Open Data Policy: The Open Data Guidelines for Procurement.
This set of seventeen guidelines is intended to be both an inspiration to those wishing to make their procurement process more transparent, as well as a reflection on what we think is required to allow for distributed oversight, fair competition, and an accessible market in government procurement. With the government workforce shrinking and overall government contracting growing, transparency in procurement is more important than ever. Contracting officers, Inspectors General and program managers will have less time for contracting oversight and may not be able to train and staff the positions responsible for oversight quickly enough. Increasing the amount of information available around this process has the potential to increase oversight, efficiency and competition by allowing for the oversight burden to be more broadly distributed. Potential contractors bidding on the same contract can make excellent auditors, just as journalists can.
Our recommendations focus on data release, as opposed to specific procurement processes and regulations. We could not recommend a single approach to procurement that would be applicable and appropriate across all governments. However, it’s our belief that more open data in procurement will pave the way for more efficient and fair practices in government contracting.
We couldn’t have completed these guidelines without the valuable input from many willing interviewees, contracting professionals in the private and public sectors, and our colleagues at OKFN, TI Georgia and more. We’ll continue to update the guidelines with practical examples over the coming weeks. Also keep an eye out for more informational posts that cover the landscape of local and international procurement.