Open Contracting: A Growing Global Movement | World Bank Institute (WBI)

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  • Open Contracting, a growing global movement seeking enhanced disclosure and participation in public contracting, was launched in South Africa.
  • Opaque contracting processes are hindering development. Open Contracting seeks to address that through collective innovation and collaborative action.
  • The World Bank Institute supports the advancement of Open Contracting work at both country and global levels.
(c) World Bank. The high-level panel at the launch of the Open Contracting initiative.

December 5, 2012―A village in Liberia nestled between two mountains had its road washed away by a flood a couple years ago.  The residents are poor, supplies are meager and the  children have stopped attending school since the road disappeared. Around eight months ago they heard on the radio that their country  was receiving funds  and part of it would go to their district to build their road and a primary school. The residents waited eagerly for it and waited and waited.  

Before development dollars can be spent and schools and hospitals built, the government typically enters into a contract with the company or the organization that is actually skilled to do the construction or provide the service. These contracts are large, cumbersome, hard to follow and quite often shrouded in secrecy and can fall prey to corruption. Yet these contracts are the documents that hold a provider accountable for the delivery of the service.

The World Bank Institute (WBI) has been working with partners around the world during the past two years to bring together diverse stakeholders from the government, private sector, NGO, media and others to form coalitions to make contracts open, transparent and easily understood.

Enhanced transparency in contracting is “a way to start improving areas that affect people…it will ultimately be about how lives changed,” said Rueben Lifuka, a member of the Board of Transparency International.

Open Contracting, a collaborative movement to enhance disclosure and participation in public contracting was launched in Johannesburg, South Africa at the first global meeting attended by 140 private sector, civil society, government, academia and media participants from October 24th to 27th.  They also developed collaborative plans to advance a global Open Contracting agenda. 

open-quotesIt is only through collective action and collaborative innovation that we can make progress in opening up contracting, and by doing so, safeguarding public resources and ensuring these resources are used to deliver services to citizens. close-quotesSanjay Pradhan, Vice President of the World Bank Institute.

“It is only through collective action and collaborative innovation that we can make progress in opening up contracting, and by doing so, safeguarding public resources and ensuring these resources are used to deliver services to citizens,” said Sanjay Pradhan, Vice President of WBI. He was part of a high-level panel, moderated by CNN’s Errol Barnett with panelists representing different interests including the Vice President of the BG Group Sir John Grant, the international director of Publish What You Pay Marinke van Riet, Heidi Mendoza from the Commission of Audits of the Philippines, Dinkie Dube from the Office of the Public Protector of South Africa, and Joachim Prey from Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

Open Contracting emerged as a result of the long-standing collaboration between WBI and GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). This collaboration builds on the work WBI  has been doing with open contracting coalitions from diverse sectors in more than 21 countries, from Mongolia to Ghana. 

A Global Movement

“We are beginning a movement that will push for the increased disclosure of public contracts, and increased monitoring of the implementation of these contracts,” said Robert Hunja, Manager of WBI’s Open Government Practice. Ultimately it is about building more schools, it is about building more health centers, about buying more medicines, so that people can have better lives.”

Open Contracting has gained many partners who have come together to form a steering group which also includes the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative, Integrity Action, Transparency International, Oxfam America and the Philippines’ Public Procurement Board

Open Contracting has emerged as a key component of the growing Open Government and Open Development movements, in which the participation of citizens is a cornerstone. “Merging Open Government with Open Contracting is about putting citizens in the process, in the loop, to see whether it was fair and effective,” said Chris Albon, Director of Governance for FrontlineSMS. He added that mobile platforms and emerging technologies are important tools in empowering citizens to be part of these processes. 

Participants agreed during the  event  that a collaborative approach, focused on engaging a wide set of actors, is the only way to tackle problems as pervasive as those stemming from opaque contracting processes and corruption.

A Future of More Open Contracts

A first step in this direction is the World Bank’s commitment to “walk the talk” by staring to make its own contracts open. Pradhan said, “We need to ensure our own contracts are public and disclosed.”

At the meeting’s conclusion, participants committed to working in very specific work streams which will advance this effort. Those collaborative cross-sectoral cross-regional working groups are focusing on the establishment of open contracting principles and data disclosure standards at the global level, and on capacity building and impact evaluation at the country level.

Participants successfully established these working groups and connected with experts and practitioners  who will collaborate to make progress within those groups, and launched a process to advance global Open Contracting agenda.

To find out more about Open Contracting or to join one of these working groups, visit

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