Open Procurement Portal (http://tender.sme.sk/en/) developed by Transparency Slovakia is a single-stop website for procurement analysis in Slovakia. The site provides easy and effective tools to browse, filter and visualize procurement data worth more than 23 bn euro. Providing high quality data, it became an indispensable source for evidence-based analysis (e.g. estimates financial impact of mandatory e-auctions). Due to procurement regime, the portal could be replicated across the EU allowing for pan-European monitoring and analysis.
Organization(s) Transparency International Slovakia
Organization Type(s) CSO
Country(ies) Slovak Republic
Primary thematic focus - entry window
Use of ICT to improve performance of procurement systems
Contract monitoring to enhance openness accountability and effectiveness of public contracts
Open Public Procurement is the only site in the world that concentrates procurement data and provides business-intelligence tools for their analysis. Costing less than 30k euros, based on open-source technology and replicable across the EU, it provides opportunity for procurement monitoring and evidence-based analyses.
How many tenders were won by X in past 3 years from ministry Z? Was anyone bidding against it? This sort of question was virtually impossible to answer in Slovakia before Open Public Procurement portal came about. Official data was published as individual HTML documents disaggregated, effectively preventing any meaningful contract monitoring or evidence-based analysis of procurement practices.
Facing the lack of good data in country where 20 percent of public spending is spent on procurement and where 80 per cent of reports in surveys they find tenders often or almost always corrupt, Transparency Slovakia decided to create its own procurement database.
The result is the Open Public Procurement portal (http://tender.sme.sk/en/); a single-stop website for procurement analysis in Slovakia. The portal automatically collects the official data worth more than 23 bn euro, stores it in a database and provides easy and effective tools for their analysis and visualization.
The project serves three main goals. First, it brings transparency to public procurement data. Secondly, it is a monitoring tool for media, law enforcement or anyone interested. Finally, the portal data can be used for analysis of procurement practices as discussed below.
Four major kinds of activities were and are being carried out - development of the site, use of the data for analysis (see outcomes), community development and liaison with authorities. The site is developed for almost 2 years now and cost around 30 thousand euros.
A beta version of the project was in testing phase for almost a year to address any remaining issues with data quality, analytical tools or usability. An updated version of the site was launched in late 2011 in cooperation with major Slovak broadsheet SME to ensure traffic and boost project sustainability
While project development and professional use of the data is well under way - community development and liaison with authorities activities need to be intensified. To become even more useful, specific niche groups interested in procurement should be identified, introduced to the tool and consulted on functionality. Perhaps even more importantly, buy-in or even possible incorporation of the portal by public authorities would provide further legitimacy and sustainability of the project. A mixture of demonstrating the value-added, trainings and lobbying is likely strategy to be employed.
The portal and related activities allowed for several important research findings. We found out that 43% of tenders attract only one bidder leaving room for significant savings resulting from increased competition. Another finding aimed to shame public institutions drew attention to the fact that while citizen insuring their cars have more than 10 companies to choose from, when governments seeks the same service, it receives mostly one offer.
It was Transparency's finding based on the portal data that provided justification for the use of mandatory use of reverse electronic auctions. We found that that mandatory use of reverse electronic auctions can save 250 million euros a year due to increase in competitiveness rates (full study available at http://bit.ly/Obstaravanie2011 in Slovak). Slightly embarrassing, the ministry proposing the rule would not be able to evaluate policy effectiveness if the portal hadn't been there, leaving too much space for guesswork.
Having partnered with a major Slovak broadsheet SME.sk that bears the operating costs, the project is reasonably sustainable.
The portal also serves as a showcase for the open data movement in Slovakia and could be replicated across the European Union due to regulatory regime and could provide for pan-European comparisons and pinpointing of best practices. Project will be open-sourced, and implemented in Georgia in late 2012. Works on similar project are underway in Czech Republic by our partner organization.
Developing the public procurement portal and making sure it is put to good use is complicated task, especially for a small NGO with full-time staff of 5 people. Having a solid vision of what you want to achieve, getting your team right and at the same time being flexible and planning for early failures are factors behind the project.
Specifically, Transparency Slovakia is lucky to have procurement experts who know what data they needed for analysis and when it became available, became early users of the portal. In similar vein, having a staffer with advanced IT skills was vital to manage IT vendor. The importance of having capacities to manage complex IT projects cannot be underestimated.
Reflecting back on the project development - an early buy-in from the side of authorities would have made the development easier and could have provided to wider usage. Similarly, activities to create community (journalists, procurement experts, watchdog citizen groups) around the portal should have been started early in the project, perhaps even in the development phase.
Author: Matej Kurian
Author's Organization: TI-Slovakia
Add a Comment