Hi, sharing my comments submitted to SG by email below:
Dear Niamh, thanks very much for the opportunity to comment on the draft Open Government Action Plan for 2018-2020.
The Scottish Government’s early adoption of eProcurement for public procurement is considered to be a great success and puts Scotland in a particularly good position to adopt Open Contracting, promoted by the Open Contracting Partnership www.open-contracting.org. Open Contracting not only delivers significant benefits in terms of improved transparency and accountability but also provides a toolkit and framework for improving machine readable procurement data quality through the adoption of the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) www.open-contracting.org/data-standard.
The UK government has recently completed similar public consultations for their 2018-2020 Open Government Action Plan and has included ambitious commitments https://goo.gl/SDp4y5 concerning the adoption of Open Contracting and OCDS with 2 of the 8 OGP commitments, dedicating 7 pages, to Open Contracting (Commitment 5 - Open Contracting: Local Engagement and Data Use Commitment 6: Open Contracting Data).
Scotland’s Open Government Action Plan for 2016-2017 contained the following commitment:“4. The Scottish Government will develop an open contracting strategy to support the publication of procurement and commercial reporting information in a manner that is accessible to all, while taking advantage of developing data standards”.
The Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM):Scotland Final Report 2017 highlighted good progress in some areas of this action plan including the publication of the strategy and the Scottish Government has been working closely with the Open Contracting Partnership. As a result, Scotland is one of the first countries in Europe to publish procurement notice data in XML, JSON and Excel format in OCDS and provide APIs on the Public Contracts Scotland website: https://www.publiccontractsscotland.gov.uk/NoticeDownload/Download.aspx
The Scottish Government’s Report of Public Discussion Events and Engagement for the new strategy included consultations on the theme of: “financial transparency – understanding the flow of money, transparency around procurement processes, accessible and understandable explanation of budgets and expenditure…”
The report captured stakeholder feedback that:
“There is a need for more transparency on procurement processes for contracts.
With greater appreciation of impact on the supply chain and maximising opportunities for small to medium sized businesses.
There needs to be more awareness built of the Planning process and practical steps for citizen intervention in it.
Should be openness about why decisions on procurement and planning are made and about who benefits and who may not benefit from these”.
The draft Action Plan for 2018-2020 makes no mention of any of the above or Open Contracting and procurement is only mentioned once under Commitment 2 - Providing a framework to support systemic change in Scottish Government to improve the way people are able to participate in open policy making and service delivery to:
“…explore how people are using procurement information, and test improved accessibility through a range of test sites”.
Scottish Procurement published a comprehensive 14 page Open Contracting Strategy in September 2017 with a number of work streams around open contracting and OCDS and in particular commitments that ”Open data standards will be built into applicable systems including open APIs, allowing us to reach the 4 star level on the OCDS” and “Specifying, building and maintaining an Open Contracting portal”.
I would like to suggest that as Open Contracting can have such a transformative impact on Open Government and public procurement in Scotland going forward, the 2018-2020 plan should build on Scotland’s significant achievements to date and have a specific and challenging commitment to delivering much more Open Contracting and specifically to::
a. Implement the outstanding actions in the Open Contracting Strategy e.g.;
(i) Specifying, building and maintaining an Open Contracting portal;
(ii) Achieving the 4 star level on the OCDS (tender, award & contract data structured with unique identifiers & classifications in JSON).
b. Update the Open Contracting Strategy to cover the period of the action plan;
c. Publish each month on the Scottish Government website (and the new Open contracting portal when available) details of all contracts over £25,000 in PDF /CSV/XML format.
It would also seem to fit better under Commitment 1. Financial and Performance Transparency and would be good to also include a reference to the planned Open Contracting Portal and OCDS under Commitment 3. Improvements to the way information/data is used.
As the Scottish Government spends over £11 bn a year on public procurement I suggest it deserves an acknowledgement in the new OGP that improving accountability and transparency for public procurement through the adoption of Open Contracting is a key component of Scotland’s Open Government Action Plan. In view of its importance, it would be great if a separate commitment could be added to the existing 5 commitments to cover Open Contracting and implementation of the Open Contracting Strategy so that it receives similar prominence to other recently published draft OGP plans.
It would be a shame if Scotland’s next OGP Plan didn’t include ambitious, specific and measurable commitments concerning Open Contracting and OCDS. I’m afraid a single sentence doesn’t do it justice in view of the importance of transparent and accountable public procurement to Scotland’s:
Citizens – developing greater confidence in the government’s ability to spend their tax payers money wisely, fairly, efficiently and transparently;
Private sector – encouraging positive economic development by making it easier for Scottish firms to win more contracts;
Government - providing the basis for achieving significant savings by increasing collaboration between buyers as open contracting opens up information previously locked within government silos, spreadsheets etc, as well as publicly.
Embedding feedback loops within the public procurement environment so citizens, private sector, civil society and government departments can feedback and collaborate on challenges to drive value-based public procurement.
I also suggest including the Open Contracting Partnership in the list of CSOs, private sector, multilaterals, working groups in the Commitment 1: Financial and Performance Transparency and Commitment 3: Improvements to the way information/data is used.
Thanks again for the opportunity to comment and look forward to seeing the final version.
e-Procurement and Procurement Consultant