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Moving towards more open procurement

NZRise attended a workshop on Open government contracting recently  – represented by Shane Ross and Laurence Millar. The purpose of the workshop was to give an update on progress on “Contract Award Notices as Open Data”.

As a member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), the NZ government is currently implementing commitments under the Third National Action Plan, and unlike the First and Second plans, there is indeed some action.  The Open Procurement commitment is to publish GETS award notices as Open Data by July 2020.

The lead agency in New Zealand on procurement is MBIE – the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

MBIE Are Listening

We commented at an earlier meeting in February that this was woefully unambitious, and it is great to report that MBIE officials have listened and brought forward the commitment to October 2019. Contract award data for the period July – September 2019 will be released as open data (.csv format) on the MBIE website and data.gov.nz in October 2019.

At the workshop, we asked that the full dataset of all contract award data be released – this would require no additional work, but provide significantly more data for analysts; MBIE officials are concerned about data quality of historic records but agreed to look at the possibility.

MBIE is very sympathetic to the lack of transparency and ‘completeness of the resulting open dataset caused by the opt-out provisions in the 4th Edition of Government Procurement Rules and the introduction of the DIA MarketPlace – both of which essentially carve out some procurement activity from GETS. NZ Rise referenced the recent DIA publication of some $409m of expenditure going through secondary procurement all-of-government (AoG) contracts where the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) is the lead agency. MBIE are investigating options by which Government agencies can be encouraged to declare secondary procurement contract awards on GETS to support greater inclusion of data in the open dataset.

Workshop Outcomes

MBIE asked a number of questions about how to make the data more accessible, who is the audience for the data, how will they use it, how is the data refreshed, and what supporting information is needed to enable people to interpret the data.  We strongly suggested that they should not be in the business of processing the data, but instead supporting private sector companies to do the data analysis and visualisation (which is the kaupapa of the Open Data movement).

MBIE also reported that they have analysed the international Open Contract Data Standard (OCDS), and GETS is already generally compliant with most of the provisions. MBIE are grateful that we identified the OCDS at the February workshop, and plan to use the standard as a reference point.  We suggested that the government could adopt the OCDS (as Australia has already done so), which would be another Open Procurement commitment that could be reported under the OGP. Officials agreed to look at the possibility.

As a final point, we asked for an update on the suggestion that GETS listings be fully open by default, the details of a listing are currently only available to users who subscribe to the RFx (we have previously called for transparency of procurement data).  MBIE indicated that this was also under consideration, and there appeared few barriers or points of resistance to this proposal.

It is indeed encouraging that MBIE’s engagement with external parties in general, and NZRise in particular, is resulting in positive changes in their actions and plans.

Laurence Millar for NZRise.

 

Any questions or comments please post them here, or contact the NZRise Co-Chairs.

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