The Open Contracting Partnership (OCP) with support from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, is implementing a project focused on improving COVID-19 procurement in order to increase civil society procurement monitoring capacity in Kosovo. It is foreseen that in the future these improvements to emergency procurement, coordination, and supply chain management will aid toward strengthening responses to future crises as well as a speedy recovery from the global pandemic. ODK has partnered up with OCP to carry out this project and as a result has been monitoring open government contracts for COVID-19.
Open Data Kosovo (ODK) has been carrying out the process of data extraction and monitoring since mid-March of this year. Data has been collected from the e-prokurimi website which was developed and supervised by the Public Procurement Regulatory Commission of Kosovo (PPRC). Relevant contracts were identified through a keyword search from the data on e-prokurimi. Whereas the data on suppliers was extracted from the Agency for Registered Business in Kosovo (ARBK) website.
During the data extraction process, we were able to receive great help and prompt responses from the Public Procurement Regulatory Commission of Kosovo (PPRC) with regards to any uncertainties identified throughout. Not only did this facilitate the obtaining of the necessary data, but it also shed light on their commitment to increasing transparency levels for the public good. The data extracted was processed by OCP and published in their Covid-19 Contract Explorer platform. Information about Kosovo’s finding can be found here.
The manual extraction process itself, however, was extensive and not short of complications.
What became increasingly apparent was that Kosovo still has room for improvement when it comes to the need for complying with open contracting principles. There were mainly two areas that were explored during the monitoring process (1) difficulty in extracting relevant data, (2) red flags and discrepancies in the data gathered. In light of this, in this report, we choose to focus on the first area (1), in order to better explain the first order of difficulties noted throughout this process.
- The first difficulty in extracting data was that of incomplete information. The most notable one was that of the missing buyer identifier (ID) to uniquely identify government entities awarding the tenders. This buyer ID tells us which government entity is involved in each contract and serves as a very important tool for being able to cross-reference data in the future. In light of this part, the data did not comply with the format of Open Contracting Data Standards (OCDS), more specifically the open contracting standards used in Kosovo lacked an Open Contracting ID (OCID) which is a globally unique identifier for a contracting process. The OCDS format indicates a data model which provides extended mechanisms that enable adding more information to each data set as seen necessary.
- Another notable difficulty was the lack of disclosure regarding details of the items which were procured through these tenders, such as: their quantities as well as price per unit. Out of the 320 contracts which were extracted and analysed, only 44% of them included the respective details regarding the quantity of items to be procured, thus leaving out more than 50% of the contracts not containing full information on the quantities of items procured. The quantity details of items to be purchased is an extremely important information that needs to be disclosed in a tender file. It not merely aids the supplier in understanding the exact quantity and price per unit it needs to supply, but it gives them a better understanding about the price value per each item as indicated by the initial tender value amount. This will in turn ensure that a fair and transparent system for tendering is taking place and that the data extracted from the tender file is complete.
- Another difficulty faced during the data extraction process was the prolongation of the activity due to the updates of the respective website to create a more efficient way of retrieving the data. Knowing that there is a bundle of data entailed within each contracting process, it is natural to encounter delays in the extraction process. The absence of a pandemic recovery filter for contracting processes was a drawback in how easily contracts specifically pertaining to Covid-19 could be filtered.
- The data for tenders is also required to be extracted manually as most of the information is in the form of a PDF file or scanned documents that require human interaction and extraction. This means that the data extraction process often took more time than anticipated which can also leave room for human error when being transferred onto the corresponding document. In addition, there are a number of discrepancies in the data and the tender files that require a constant update to ease this process. Consequently, there were instances where the supplier addresses occasionally had to be changed or double-checked due to not being updated in the tender file. This is a work in progress as the PPRC is continuously working on improving the E-prokurimi website. A training was held on the part of PPRC, May 8, to familiarize businesses on changes to the website that were updated to make the navigation of the website more user-friendly.
Considering all of these issues faced when extracting such data, below we provide you with a table identifying what must be changed, what would be most helpful if changed and what already works well so can remain unchanged.
In addition to the identification of the problem areas, we came up with the main recommendations on how the monitoring process can be improved and also explain why it is important to follow these recommendations so that orderly and transparent extraction of data can take place. These recommendations are as follows:
(1) Providing a Buyer Identification is important so that government entities can be easily and uniquely identified and for the process to remain orderly and transparent.
(2) Whilst the PPRC has been committed toward an open and transparent contracting journey — the scope of it may need to be extended further to include the accessibility and format of the data. The data should be in a machine readable format — PDF formats/scanned documents are less useful to data collectors than searchable data.
(3) Have a separate tab for emergency procurement where contracting processes are easily available to the public. This separate tab shall be designed in a way that it can filter the data based on the recovery tag mentioned above pertaining to COVID-19. Also, in order for contracts to be incorporated in the emergency procurement tab, we should provide a text field that justifies why certain contracts fall in this category/tab, which in turn would maximize openness and transparency in the process.