The Open Contracting movement, pushing to make government procurement worldwide considerably more transparent and efficient, has been a huge success. One measure of that is to look at how many governments committed to making themselves more transparent are prioritizing procurement transparency as part of that. In the early years of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) only 10 percent of participating governments focused on the issue. By 2021, three in four OGP members had implemented public procurement reforms including open contracting and those reforms rank as one of the most effective policy outcomes.
Today, more than 50 countries and cities are implementing policy changes from open electronic bid processes and publishing contracts to posting inspection reports. To take one shining example, Ukraine’s Prozorro system, introduced in 2015, digitized the government procurement process and adopted an open contracting data standard that ensured full information on all procurements was publicly available in a searchable database. The linked Dozorro system, a public procurement monitoring platform, enabled citizens to submit and track feedback. Since then, more than 700,000 users have uncovered over 30,000 violations of public procurement rules.
At the center of a burgeoning global network of officials, civil society groups, academics, and advocates working on the issue, the Open Contracting Partnership is surely one of the most dynamic and effective civil society organizations in governance (or beyond). It provides convening, technical support, standards development, and a hub for learning from past experience. But the team at OCP would be the first to say that Open Contracting is a movement in the best sense of the word, with engagement between partners and an immense amount of mutual support: not least, the people behind Ukraine’s amazing advances have been happy to share their work and experiences worldwide, including with us at CGD.
In the past 10 years at CGD, I’ve been involved in work related to open contracting including research on the plausibility of parts of the idea and its impact. And we convened two working groups (Publish What You Buy and Commercial Transparency), bringing together experts to talk about barriers to contract publication and how to deal with commercial confidentiality in contracting. Those groups, each rich with immensely valuable knowledge and experience, helped craft consensus documents on some particularly thorny issues in procurement transparency.
As part of CGD’s 20th anniversary, this work on open contracting was the subject of one of a group of case studies on the Center’s impact. The study, written by James Ladi Williams, suggests “CGD can claim credit for strengthening the case for open contracting,” and that our work was “an accelerant and amplifier of a complicated change process.” I hope that is true. Certainly, to claim anything more would be stealing credit others deserve. But being some small part of a big global success is a huge win, and I’m very grateful to those who funded the work for enabling CGD (and me) to be part of it.
I’m also grateful for the thoughts (and some very kind words) of some good friends, former colleagues and some real stars of Open Contracting that appear in the case study: Kathrin Frauscher, Gavin Hayman, Patrick Heller, Michael Jarvis, Todd Moss, Rob Pitman, Sanjay Pradhan, Jameela Raymond, Bill Savedoff, Beth Schwanke, and Johnny West.
It has been a privilege to be part of a broad movement of fantastic people committed to a good cause, many of whom have worked nonstop for many years to bring open contracting to fruition in their countries and around the world. Global change isn’t about a few individuals or even a few individual organizations; it takes global cooperation—and few cooperative endeavors have managed the rapid and sustained progress of the Open Contracting movement.
CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.