As you are aware Scottish Procurement had three commitments in Scotland’s Open Government Action Plan: 2018-2020, one of these was to hold a consultation with civil society on how best to make published procurement information useful and accessible to a wider audience.
We were keen to hear suggestions on how civil society could better understand the information that we publish and what it should look like in the future.
We held the event on the 21st May 2019, attached below is the report from the discussions raised at the consultation.
During the summer of 2018 the Scottish Government Open Government team held a series of events with citizens regarding transparency and open government. These events demonstrated that there was more work to be done, both to increase the scope of the information published, and to help citizens understand and make use of that information.
The feedback from these events was used to inform the commitments that were included in Scotland’s Open Government Action Plan: 2018-2020, published in January 2019. One of these commitments was to:
- Consult with civil society on how best to make published procurement information useful and accessible to a wide audience.
On the 21st May 2019, Scottish Procurement held the consultation in Edinburgh, with attendee’s from The Scottish Information Commissioner’s Office, The Soil Association and Link, a group of social enterprise companies that provide affordable housing. There was also representation from the Open Government team and the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) helpdesk.
Doreen Grove, Head of Open Government at Scottish Government, opened the event with an overview of Scotland’s approach to Open Government, and how this fits in with work going on across the UK and internationally.
Matt Marshall from the OCDS helpdesk, informed the group about Open Contracting and the Open Contracting Data Standard, which is a global, non-proprietary data standard structured to reflect the complete contracting cycle. The standard enables publishers around the world to publish shareable, reusable, machine readable data.
Maureen McClair from Scottish Procurement provided a summary of the work that had been delivered since the publication of its Open Contracting strategy in 2017. This Strategy aims to provide procurement information to citizens in more open formats. The key deliverables were :
Application of the Open Government Licence to information published on the Public Contracts Scotland website.
Creation of a dedicated Open Contracting micro-site on Public Contracts Scotland (PCS), the national advertising portal, which is open and accessible to the public, without the need to register
Ability to download Contract and award notices on PCS in new, downloadable formats, rather than just html.
Invitation to tender (ITT) documents associated with a procurement exercise permanently available after the closing date for receipt of the tenders, (where the contracting authority uses PCS to carry out the procurement).
The ability to bulk download contract notice information in JSON, XML and Excel
Provision of an Application Programme Interface (API) to enable bulk download information in a machine readable format.
The ability to download the statistics from each contracting authority’s buyer profile in either Excel or CSV.
Application of a globally unique identifier (OCID) to notices published on PCS to link documents associated with the same procurement exercise
The unique identifier publicly visible for users, enabling better search functionality
Maureen also informed the attendees that Scottish Procurement had two further commitments included in Scotland’s Open Government Action Plan: 2018-2020:
Publish Scottish Government contract documentation, starting with large collaborative frameworks, by the end of June 2019
Publish Scottish Government procurement related spend information, by the end of December 2020
Key points raised in the discussions and recommendations for consideration.
How can Scottish Government make published procurement information useful and accessible to a wide audience?
Currently, information about Scottish Government’s procurement activity is published in various places, such as the Open Contracting micro-site on PCS and the main Scottish Government website. Plans to publish additional procurement information, such as information regarding procurement related spend, could lead to information being made available in even more locations.
Most attendees were unaware of the additional information available on the Open Contracting micro-site but they felt that PCS was too specialist in nature to attract members of the general public with an interest in procurement data.
The attendees felt that the information that was currently available (for example via the data download and API functionality on PCS) required a high degree of technical proficiency to manipulate and interpret, potentially limiting its usefulness and ability to engage a wide audience.
There should be a central Open Contracting portal, which brings together procurement information from various sources and displays it in an easily accessible way.
To ensure that any future Open Contracting portal meets the needs of wider civil society, Scottish Government should continue to engage with stakeholders outside government.
Source data needs to be better signposted.
As a key source of procurement data, PCS should continue to be developed to meet the Open Contracting Data Standard.,
The Scottish Government should produce easy-to-use visualisations of key information to ensure it meets the needs of a wide range of stakeholders but also ensure that the source data remains available for those who have the skills to perform their own interpretations. Examples of key information could include:
- spend per supplier;
- spend per contract;
- contracts per supplier (there was a concern from attendees that there could be further incidences of overstretched companies being awarded contracts, as happened with Carillion and Interserve);
- how far through the procurement process small and medium enterprises make it; and
- contracts where only one tender has been received.
Please contact email@example.com if you would like to know more about Open Contracting or have any other comments.
Open Contracting Team.