World Bank specialist Lindsey Marchessault tells Viet Nam News reporter Khanh Van about the importance of open contracting, an initiative that Viet Nam has started to adopt to improve the efficiency of public projects.
Could you tell us what open contracting means?
There is a crucial interest in ensuring that public contracts are fairly awarded, get good value-for-money, and are well performed.
Open contracting is a growing movement focused on enhanced disclosure and participation in public contracting at all stages of the contracting chain (from planning to completion of obligations) and all types of contracts.
It is about looking at the whole contracting process of investment projects, particularly public investment projects, such as how the contract or procurement is planned and how it is conducted.
To make it clearer, all information relating to the contracting process will be disclosed, from planning (information about the planning of a contract), formation (information about the tendering or negotiation process), award (information about the awarded contract), implementation (information about implementation, including payments) and termination.
Opening also means providing information about the whole process in a well-structured way with good information so that stakeholders can monitor what is going on, meaning it can help deter corruption or level the playing field so that more private companies can participate, thus helping improve their participation and access to the market.
They can also monitor to ensure that the schools, roads and other products of that contracting process are delivered on time.
It should also be kept in mind that it is an approach to achieve better contracting outcomes and looks at the contracting process very carefully and closely.
How will open contracting benefit businesses and the Government?
When you have good information about the contracting process, you could do analysis like creating graphs, tables or reports to see for example how much we pay for one kilometre of road, how delayed we are in terms of the construction of a school or where are the issues when they occur. Thus it would help us see are we improving, are we saving money, are we building better schools, for example.
Having open contracting also means having transparent information so that all the various stakeholders and society can be part of the contract process.
And providing transparent information would not only be helpful to the public and stakeholders but also helpful to government agencies in enabling better decision-making. It will automatically help government agencies improve procurement as they will have a better sense of what is going on, have a better sense of their target and how to reach their target in a more efficient way.
What should the Government do to establish the open contracting system?
The World Bank is working very closely with the Ministry of Industry and Trade to prepare for that. They are very active in this process and have a detailed action plan for implementing the open contracting initiative.
The World Bank has developed a monitoring and evaluation tool that will provide detailed important relevant information not only to the Government but also other stakeholders.
In concrete terms, the first step is to think about what data we have here in Viet Nam, where it is and who has it.
Then pilot some projects to collect essential data that we need. There are various things you need to analyse with that information. If we can identify what we have, what we still need to be able to do the analysis and what we want to measure, we can discuss with stakeholders to decide what should be done to ensure time and cost efficiency.
There are five different minimum core results that any Government procurement system seeks to measure, including cost-efficiency, timely delivery, quality, transparency, and fairness.
Can you give us examples of countries that successfully use open contracting?
Definitely, there are many countries that are more advanced in adopting this model. The Government of Korea, for example, has been publicising open data via e-procurement system and had good engagement with the private sector.
In the Philippines, for example, where the community and civil society groups all take part in the contracting process. Some of them observe the bidding process and provide feedback to see whether the contracting process follows current regulations. The Philippines is very strong in experiencing the community-monitoring model.
The Government of Mexico has developed an e-procurement system and publishes contracting data via the system, and even publishes some monitoring and evaluation results. They also have what they call the social witness programme. For high-value procurements, they invite members from civil society groups and the media to come and observe the contracting process and report this process to provide transparent information. — VNS