In Kenya, Open Contracting Improves Efficiency & Curbs Corruption

September 9, 2020 Open Contracting and Procurement Analytics Charlene Migwe-Kagume
Open Data, Procurement, Program, Subnational

On 31st August 2020, President Uhuru Kenyatta directed the Ministry of Health to come up with a transparent, open method and mechanism through which all tenders and procurement done by Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA) will be available online. The directive follows allegations of corruption in the procurement of COVID-19 emergency supplies.

With citizens’ lives on the line and government spending at record highs, ensuring accountability to citizens is imperative to maintaining trust and effectively managing KEMSA’s procurement in response to COVID-19. Open procurement data can help in improving the efficiency of emergency procurement and support civil society groups to detect corruption and monitor the effectiveness of service delivery.

“This level of transparency and through the use of technology will go a very long way in ensuring that we have the confidence of our people that those placed in institutions are able to manage the resources of the Kenyan taxpayer plus our development partners in an open and transparent manner” – President Uhuru Kenyatta

Much can be learned from Makueni County in Kenya, a county that publishes and uses open, accessible, and timely information on government contracting to engage citizens and businesses. The Makueni Open Contracting Portal is an interactive site built by Development Gateway (DG) that provides detailed information on each step of the tender, award, and contract implementation process at the county level. These steps are now recorded within the interactive Makueni Open Contracting Portal – making information available for citizens at each step of the process. The county plans to go a step further to publish all implementation data such as community monitoring reports, also known as PMC reports and supplier payment vouchers.

The goal of the portal is to improve the efficiency of public procurement management and support the delivery of higher-quality goods, works, and services for residents of Makueni County through enhanced citizen feedback.

What We Learned from Makueni County

Lesson 1: Public Data Improves Efficiency

The primary role of the Ministry of Health and KEMSA in Kenya during an emergency situation is to provide citizens timely, affordable, and efficient supplies and services. Digitizing and publishing procurement data will provide the Ministry insights on whether funding and services are reaching intended beneficiaries. 

Publishing procurement data will also encourage better monitoring from relevant state and non-state actors. The Ministry of Health and KEMSA will have the opportunity to aggregate non-state actors’ feedback and state actor insights. This feedback will enable them to make data-driven decisions that will improve service delivery to citizens, promote efficient allocation of resources and ultimately saving costs.

DG has developed interactive M&E dashboards to support analysis currently used by Makueni County. The series of charts and visualizations provide helpful data insights – such as top suppliers that received contracts and the percentage of awards that go toward the Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO), which requires tenders to be awarded to women, youth, and people with disabilities.

Since the start of the use of the Makueni open contracting portal in 2019, improved resource utilization and efficiency in procurement has been identified by the County leadership. Governor Kivutha Kibwana cited that the County has saved Kes. 30,000,000 from the Roads department as a result of using the portal.

Lesson 2: Building Trust is Essential to Combating Corruption

The complexity of emergency responses such as COVID-19 requires cooperation between the private sector, national, and county government to ensure timely delivery of supplies. KEMSA publishing data will promote feedback and engagement of business and citizens further building trust and collaboration. Publishing procurement data also equips civil society and citizens with the information needed to help combat corruption. For example, reporting counterfeits, frauds, and scams – which has been a key corruption issue identified globally in COVID-19 response procurement, particularly PPEs.

DG has implemented its corruption risk dashboard in Makueni, which uses high powered analytics and global research to identify risk profiles for potential corruption in procurement. KEMSA can adopt the corruption risk dashboard as a red-flagging tool to assist in identifying procurement activities that merit in-depth auditing of corruption risk – including fraud, collusion, and process rigging – over time. These analytics will allow the organization to address cases of corruption before taxpayer money is lost.

Lastly, publishing Beneficial ownership data can enable governments to quickly perform minimal standards of due diligence on companies they are buying goods and services from. As well as reducing the immediate risk of corruption, beneficial ownership data provides a valuable trail for future audit.

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There are 17 nutrients required for plant growth with (N) nitrogen, (P) phosphorus, and (K) potassium serving as the essential trio. In Nigeria, there is a drive to produce and use more region and crop-specific fertilizers in an effort to increase crop yields and food security. Professor Victor Okechukwu Chude is the Registrar/CEO of Nigeria Institute of Soil Science (NISS), where his work centers on these issues. His passion for agriculture is derived from working with his grandfather on the family’s farm; and has been driven by the desire to produce food for his family and for the rest of Nigeria. In his role, Professor Chude focuses on soil fertility, plant nutrition, and promoting the sustainable management of Nigerian soils. NISS sees soil science as a way to ensure environmental sustainability, high agricultural productivity, and food security in the country.

Unreliable Data

Professor Chude explained that sourcing data in Nigeria can be a herculean task. He often relies on data derived from student works and research, FAO Stats, and internet research. “It’s tough… students know that their degree is dependant on reliable data, but some of the data that is out there is not reliable.”

For Professor Chude, another consideration is producing data and analysis that can be understood by the end-users, often agricultural extension agents or farmers. Using raw data can be a challenge, specifically when working with constituents with lower data literacy. “Data sometimes looks so complicated, you wonder where to start and how [to] figure it out.” 

Integrating Visuals and Analysis

The VIFAA Nigeria Dashboard was co-designed by Development Gateway and AfricaFertilizer.org (a project of IFDC),  in conjunction with stakeholders like Professor Chude and NISS. Built on trusted data validated by Nigeria’s Fertilizer Working Group, the dashboard displays fourteen indicators including apparent consumption, price, availability, and a searchable plant directory. Additionally, this information has been overlaid on the cropland under production map, which is the first cropland mapping in Nigeria since 1973. 

In encouraging farmers to use fertilizer, Professor Chude described the need for information on the prices of various products, fertilizer use, fertilizer availability, and crop-specific fertilizers. This information feeds into decision-making at NISS and at the regional or individual levels.

Transforming Decision-Making

Professor Chude describes the dashboard in terms of improvement to efficiency. First, because much of the analysis has already been done and is being visualized on the dashboard, which saves significant staff time and reduces calculation errors. It also improves the ease of doing business through increased knowledge. The dashboard also reduces barriers to collaboration for partners by increasing the compatibility of the data. 

He also sees the benefit to farmers questioning which products to use. The dashboard is highly visual. It shows the value of fertilizer and how it can impact a farmer’s income. Extension agents, who are already trusted by the farmers, can explain the benefits and leave easy-to-understand data visualizations with the farmers, which can “become very impactful.”

Overall, Professor Chude sees the value in the way data has been transformed on the dashboard. It increases his ability to make decisions and scale specific projects. “This [dashboard] is highly commendable. It is easy to use and contains a lot of useful and helpful data. it will enhance our work as soil scientists and extension agents in making recommendations.”

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