User needs

Open data is a means, not an end in itself. The first stage of any work with OCDS is to consider who will use the data that is produced, and which fields and features of the data are important to them.

In designing OCDS, we explored a range of different user needs and use cases for data on contracting.

We focused on five main groups of user need, described below in greater detail:

  • Generating market opportunities for the private sector to fairly compete for public contracts

  • Achieving value for money for government

  • Strengthening the transparency, accountability and integrity of public contracting

  • Monitoring the effectiveness of service delivery

  • Improving internal efficiency

These needs intersect. For example, increasing transparency can increase competition (market opportunities) and lower prices (value for money).

You can read more about how people around the world are using OCDS, and other contracting data, on the Open Contracting Partnership website.

As you start implementing OCDS, consider how you will engage with data users, and how you will ensure the data and documents you make available will meet their needs.

Market opportunity

Generating market opportunities in public procurement means giving suppliers fair and equal access to procurement opportunities in order to improve competition, allow for more vendor diversity and enable innovation. Open contracting data – from the planning process and all stages of the contracting process (tender, award, contract, and implementation) – can be used to understand and describe the procurement market, analyze competition, and evaluate supplier performance.

The private sector can use open contracting data to understand the potential pipeline of procurement opportunities and identify the most competitive markets. A government agency can use open contracting data to understand trends in past purchases to better plan for future procedures, analyze particular sectors to evaluate competition and identify potential market concentration. Moreover, authorities can use contracting data to understand their supplier base in order to design and implement strategies to increase vendor diversity, such as increasing the participation of women-owned businesses, small and medium enterprises, minority-owned firms or firms committed to sustainability.

Key data fields: The procurement method used, the awarded suppliers, the other companies that submitted bids, the tender and award values, and item details.

Value for money in procurement

Value for money refers to the effective, efficient and economic use of resources in public procurement across the different stages of the process. This means value for money might not be achieved considering only the price, but also assessing other non-price attributes such as the quality of the items procured and the efficiency of the process.

In public procurement, value for money can be achieved, for example, when a contract is implemented competently (in a quality manner and following specifications), timely (achieving milestones by specified dates), and competitively (at or below the estimated price).

Open contracting data can help public officials get better value for money on goods, services and works, and can help in determining whether value for money has been achieved in concluded contracts. The private sector can analyze trends in prices and supplier performance, in order to identify opportunities. Civil society (NGOs, journalists, community organizations, etc.) can analyze this data to monitor government overspending.

Key data fields: The values at different stages of the process, unit prices, and item details.

Promoting public integrity

Integrity in public procurement is about identifying, preventing and combating corruption, fraud, and other types of illicit behavior. Proactively calculating red flag indicators and applying risk detection methods, using open contracting data, can potentially detect corruption and fraud before it happens and deter illicit behavior. This changes the anti-corruption approach from punitive to preventive. Monitoring anomalous procurement behavior, even when that behavior isn’t actually the result of a corrupt or illicit process, can help governments identify and resolve overarching inefficiencies in public procurement.

There are two main approaches to fraud and corruption monitoring. A ‘micro’ approach closely scrutinizes individual procurements: for example, flagging a competitive procedure that received a single bid. A ‘macro’ approach looks for suspicious patterns in the whole market and makes links across datasets to map out networks of funding, ownership and interests: for example, calculating collusion risk in a particular market.

All stakeholders from civil society, the private sector, government, and donors have an interest in identifying and combating corruption in public procurement.

Key data fields: The procurement method used, bid details (including the bidders and bid values), the values at different stages of the process, key dates, key documents, and item details.

Resource: Red Flags for Integrity Guide

Monitoring service delivery

Monitoring service delivery looks at how public procurement delivers value to citizens in terms of quality of goods, services and works provided. This involves analyzing in detail the implementation stage of the contracting process, to verify whether the goods, services and works procured are being delivered in a timely manner, with good quality and at the agreed price. It is also important to assess the transactions, contract amendments and subcontracting arrangements.

Open contracting data for the implementation stage can help civil society and citizens to monitor service delivery in their communities and give feedback to the government. For governments, having timely information on the delivery of contracts can be useful to identify inefficiencies, ensure contracts are running efficiently, and detect issues.

Key data fields: Fields related to contracts, implementation, amendments, milestones and transactions.

Improving internal efficiency

Internal efficiency refers to ensuring that the investments of money, time, and human resources in public procurement ultimately result in high-quality service delivery and value for money. It helps governments to promote better practices and procurement systems, while reducing the resources needed.

Inefficiencies might arise due to inadequate systems or institutional arrangements that cause delays, carry high transactional costs, involve complex technical processes, create silos of information, or lack award and contract management systems.

Public procurement agencies are particularly interested in identifying areas for efficiency improvements. Interventions might include, for example: analyzing delays; analyzing the duration of different stages of the process; structuring procurement information to improve internal coordination; streamlining internal processes without duplicating effort across different stages of the contracting process; developing market engagement strategies to prepare better tender specifications; or promoting the use of e-procurement systems.

Key data fields: The dates for the different stages of the process, and the status of the tender, awards and contracts.