Step Up Consulting has recently published three research papers on open contracting and its role during the COVID 19 pandemic. The research conducted in 2020 covers two countries, Guatemala and the Philippines.
Hivos, a non-government organization based in the Netherlands, commissioned the research to provide evidence that can be used by local actors and donors in the design, implementation, and advocacy for inclusive crisis response and recovery.
The research highlights at least four key findings:
During during times of emergencies, it is easy to ignore differences in context, needs, and vulnerabilities.
Poor inclusion outcomes in COVID-19 response are a result of the lack of participation of people outside government in the design, implementation, and monitoring of initiatives to contain the virus and cushion the population against adverse economic impacts.
Data and information is a critical component in a more effective and inclusive emergency response. When information is provided, it opens up spaces for discussion, contestation, and productive collaboration.
The role of intermediaries can not be overemphasised in ensuring that procurement during the times of crisis is transparent and accountable. Without intermediaries, like media, watchdogs, or social accountability advocates and organisations, to scrutinise procurement records including those indicating the receipt of goods and services, as well as its consequent distribution and/or utilisation, a more accountable procurement process can not be achieved.
The full paper for the Philippines is available here while that of Guatemala can be accessed via this link.
The regional project “visible unearthing”, implemented by Goethe Institut aims to use open data to analyze the interactions of air-water quality and other indicators (groundwater level, etc.) that are important, especially in climate change in very specific environments (cities, regions, ecosystems). As an important part of the process, a data inventory was undertaken to identify the datasets that can be used to capture a condition of interest and visualize it in ways that could generate meaningful discussions. Step Up Consulting was the lead researcher for the project.
With COVID-19 impacting the Southeast Asian region and globally, the initial plan was to look at environmental data with a certain level of relationship with COVID 19. Given that restrictions in movement have significantly impacted mobility during lockdowns, and with transportation as one of the identified contributors of air quality (EPA 2019), the main focus of the assessment was the availability of open air quality data.
The research was implemented in four cities across SouthEast Asia, namely, Hanoi (Vietnam), Manila (Philippines), Bangkok (Thailand) and Jakarta, Indonesia. Despite limitations in data, there are at least emerging findings that came out of the research.
As indicated in the graph above on Bangkok, three patterns are emerging from the visualization. First, during hard lockdown periods, mobility within Bangkok significantly decreased when compared to baseline figures. Second, during hard lockdown periods, air quality data is consistently below the baseline figures, except for December to January. Finally, lockdown impacts mobility significantly within the period immediately following its imposition and gradually increases towards baseline over time. The same effect can be said of air quality, where lockdown periods result to better air quality but the effect wanes in succeeding periods.
The same can also be said of the Jakarta dataset that can be seen in the graph below:
The above visualization compares the air quality index in 5 data collection points across three years. A specific date was chosen using the lockdown scenario as the primary determinant. Jakarta, in this case, implemented its first hard lockdown in the second half of March 2021, imposing work from home arrangements and restricting religious worship. The choice of the specific date (March 29) is conditioned by data availability within the three-year period from 2019 across the different data collection points where researchers gathered the average.
Figure 1 indicates a significant improvement in air quality index when we compare 2019 with 2020 data when successive lockdowns were imposed in the city by the government. Towards the end of March 2021, lesser restrictions were imposed by the city government.
In the next three months, Step Up researchers will be publishing three papers as a result of the research. These are as follows:
Openness of environmental data and its implications on data governance. The paper will utilize the findings of the inventory conducted by the researchers and its implications on measuring environmental health, as well as on monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals
A review of alternative data sources to capture air quality data, with particular reference to the use of satellite data that can potentially reveal anomalies in the relationship between lockdown, mobility, and air quality. This is particularly true in Hanoi, where there seems to be only a slight improvement despite mobility restrictions. It has been argued that pollutants for the city are outside the city itself, particularly those coming from the powerplants and the industrial clusters.
A deeper investigation of lockdown, mobility, and air quality, using the results of this study and other analyses conducted by other researchers in the last six months.
A total of 62 participants attended the training from different national government agencies as well as electric cooperatives. Among those who attended were representatives from the Department of Budget and Management, Civil Service Commission, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Department of Public Works and Highways, and the Insurance Commission of the Department of Finance. Officials from electric cooperatives of Zambales, Cagayan, La Union, Palawan, Pampanga, San Jose, and Sorsogon were also present.
Topics discussed include data revolution and data justice, data governance and management, analytics and algorithmic bias, as well as data culture. The training was delivered by Mr. Canares using a mix of lectures, case studies, as well as tech-enabled audience engagement strategies.
Transparency in the procurement process and the implementation of procurement contracts is one of the principles enshrined in Republic Act 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act) alongside the principles of competitiveness, public monitoring, accountability, and streamlined procurement process. In promoting transparency in government procurement activities, government agencies are mandated to publish all bid opportunities and post all awards and contracts in the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS).
However, public access to contracting information from planning up to implementation is limited. Most contracting documents are not published online and are being kept internally by agencies. The current version of the PhilGEPS does not have information on the planning and implementation stage. This situation makes tracking and monitoring of government projects difficult, which in turn makes government procurement activities susceptible to fraud, collusion, and corruption.
With support from HIVOS, the Provincial Government of South Cotabato, in partnership with the European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, implemented an open contracting program to strengthen transparency and accountability in local procurement systems in the province of South Cotabato. This culminated with the publication of local procurement activities in a centralised portal in compliance with the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS).
HIVOS has conducted similar initiatives in the Philippines. The publication of data, however, is not sufficient to fully realise the value of open contracting. It is critical and important that users are trained to use open contracting data for different purposes as advocacy, research, and development projects.
Researchers are one of the potential users of contracting data. But only very few are trained in this area. This research module is intended to help guide organisations wanting to train researchers in open contracting data.
Step Up strategy advisor, Michael Canares, works with Konsil LSM Indonesia (Indonesian NGO Council) on a systems mapping research together with Open Data Lab Jakarta to develop a deep understanding of the systemic challenges in affecting gender-inclusive development in the cities of Jakarta, Banda Aceh, Bandung, and Pontianak in Indonesia.
The system mapping research consist of three main components: 1) desk research, 2) interviews with key civil society and government stakeholders in each of the target cities, and 3) system mapping workshops. Mr. Canares was engaged by the project implementation team to design the online workshop using different online tools.
Mr. Canares designed the different workshops aimed at (a) identifying and validating priority issues related to gender-inclusive development in each city; (b) recommending strategies or solutions to gender-inclusive development issues in each city and identify ways in which open data can be part of the solution; (c) identifying and prioritizing skills gaps and data gaps needed in implementing the solutions; and (d) identifying key actors and validating coalitions between actors within and inter-city, including support needed to strengthen the collaboration.
The workshops started in June 2020 and will wrap up in the next three weeks.
Team 1-Forecasting Contractors’ Slippage for Infrastructure Projects in South Cotabato, by Cubort Bulanon and Chucky Marie Fernandez
Team 2- Finding Areas Underserved by High Schools in South Cotabato Using Network Analysis by Elisha Alvarado
Team 3 – Analysing Cost Efficiency of Procurement by Lot, by Michelle Capistrano
Team 4 – Profiling Contractor Performance of Contractors in the Province of South Cotabato, by Denver John Acebedo, Neiljan Raborar, and Fritz Tuazon
The research teams were identified in February this year and were trained through a Research Boot Camp held in General Santos City on March 11-13, 2020. The researchers then conducted research implementation from March to May this year, despite the pandemic. Luckily, the province of South Cotabato was least affected by COVID 19, allowing the researchers to conduct field implementation using both offline and online means.
Mr Canares mentored Teams 3 and 4, while Team 1 was mentored by Layertech Software Labs CEO Frei Sangil and Team 2 by Ben Hur Pintor, geospatial generalist, open-source and open data advocate, and maptivist.
Hivos, a development organization based in the Netherlands recently published a research it commissioned to Step Up Consulting. The research, done by Michael Canares and Francois van Schalkwyk, interrogates whether open contracting reforms can or can not lead to increased equality and inclusion in public contracting processes.
Open contracting has been adopted by more than 35 governments worldwide and has received significant attention from advocates and researchers alike. According to the organisation Open Contracting Partnership, open contracting has become “a new global norm, recommended and endorsed by global bodies such as the G7, the G20, OECD, the European Commission, the World Bank, and the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development”. However, evidence of the concrete benefits that open contracting delivers derives from a limited sample of case studies or single-country research pilots.
The research made use of a case study approach covering 5 low and middle-income countries. The cases covered are as follows:
Bandung, Indonesia: an open contracting pilot project implementedthe City of Bandung with the support of the World Bank and the National Procurement Agency. The citizen engagement component of the project was implemented by World Wide Web Foundation’s Open Data Lab Jakarta, the aim of which is to cultivate use of published contracting data by the city government of Bandung, Indonesia.
Bantay Kita, Philippines: Open mining governance to increase access, understanding and use of mining contract data in Cebu and Palawan provinces in the Philippines.
Budeshi, Nigeria aims to ensure that public service delivery in Nigeria is opened to public scrutiny. Budeshi also requires that data across the budget and procurement processes are structured enough to enable various stages to be linked to each other and, eventually, to public services.
Preferential Procurement, South Africa: Public procurement regulations introduced by the national government in 2017 stipulating that at least 30% of the value of all government contracts of ZAR30 million or more must be subcontracted to specified disadvantaged groups, including youth and women.
Access to Government Procurement Opportunities, Kenya: Public procurement regulations introduced by the national government in 2013 stipulating that at least 30% of all government contracts must be subcontracted to specified disadvantaged groups, including youth and women.
If you are interested to learn more about the research, please download the file from this link.
Michael Canares, Managing Consultant of Step Up Consulting is one of the participants (and co-facilitator) of the recently-concluded Global Data Barometer Workshop in Washington DC, USA, last January 9-2020. The workshop was convened to “bring together key stakeholders to review the research framework, implementation model and sustainability strategy for a new global study of data around the world, set to release its first edition in 2020/2021.”.
Key organizations that were represented in the workshop were the World Bank, Open Government Partnership, Canada’s International Development Research Center, Open Data Watch, Open Data Charter, Carribean Open Data Institute, Land Portal Foundation, Iniciativa Latinoamericana por los Datos Abiertos, Open Contracting Partnership, among others.
The workshop was held at the GovHub in Washington DC and was organized by Tim Davies. Tim Davies was the research lead of the Open Data in Developing Countries project where Step Up Consulting was one of the grantees from Southeast Asia.
Step Up Managing Consultant, Michael Canares, was one of the personalities outside of government recognized in the recent 2019 Annual FOI Awards. His contributions to the Philippine government’s thrust of making government information accessible to the public was a major reason for the award.
Since then, Canares has worked in several transparency and accountability projects in the Philippines, including in the areas of open government, open contracting, and more recently, freedom of Information. Canares leads the Increasing People’s Access to Public Contracting Information Through the FOI Program funded by HIVOS and implemented in partnership with the Freedom of Information – Project Management Office of the Philippine government.
Step Up Consulting was awarded a research contract by HIVOS, a development organization headquartered in the Netherlands, to undertake a research project to understand how open contracting reforms and increased availability of contract data can be used to realize results and benefits for specific, historically marginalized groups external to government.
Step Up Consulting is one of the several firms considered to undertake the research but got the final nod of the HIVOS review panel based on the strength of its proposal and the quality of the composition of its research team. The research will be conducted in Kenya and Nigeria in Africa, and Indonesia and the Philippines in Asia.
For this research, Step Up’s team is composed of Michael Canares, strategy advisor, as research lead and Francois Van Schalkwyk, a long-time collaborator of Mr. Canares, along with Fiona Smith and Ana Brandusescu as review panel. The research will run from July 2019 to January 2020.
The research, using a case study approach, aims to identify and assess ways in which key aspects of open contracting reforms did or did not lead to circumstances where open contracting resulted in increased equality and inclusion in public contracting processes. More particularly, the research would like to answer the following questions:
How can open contracting reforms and increased availability of contract data be used to realise results and benefits for specific, historically marginalised groups external to government?
What contextual and programmatic aspects in open contracting contribute to achieving meaningful results and benefits for these marginalised groups?
What do specific, historically marginalised stakeholders experience as significant barriers/impediments to achieving the desired results and benefits?