Springs Sprint Event
From 20 to 25 March 2017, Hivos East and Southern Africa hubs held the first convening of open contracting infomediaries in Nairobi, Kenya. Dubbed the ‘Springs Sprint’, the event brought together local partners from Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania with the goal of promoting transparency in government contracts through using open contracting data standards.
The event organised by Hivos in partnership with Article 19, the Engine Room, School of Data and the Open Contracting Partnership drew infomediaries working in different sectors such as agriculture, extractives, infrastructure, health, public policy and media. Other than discussions on pushing governments to adopt open contracting standards, the partners also focused on improving their capacities to effectively lobby using evidence-based advocacy strategies.
Together with Hivos, Article 19 and organisations from the open data network, the infomediaries reviewed and refined their proposals, developed Theories of Change including some of their approaches on stakeholder engagement and advocacy.
Critical during the forum was the interface with real case studies of organisations in Africa involved in civic engagement when it comes to open contracting. The Public Private Development Centre (PPDC) in Nigeria was cited as one example where through the ‘Budeshi’ (“open it” in Hausa language) project they advocate for opening up government contracts to public scrutiny. Speaking during her presentation, PPDC’s Executive Director Seember Nyager noted the need to publish government contracts so as to follow up on delivery of services, ‘’Budeshi requires that data from procurement processes are transparent enough to be able to be linked to delivery of services,’’ she said.
The kick-off of the Springs Sprint event coincided with the changing legislative environments in Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi, which will bolster efforts to promote open contracting. In Malawi, the Freedom of Information Law recently approved by the President marks a new dawn in enabling citizens’ access to information. To fast track the realization of some of its commitments in the Open Government Partnership (OGP), Kenya’s government has agreed to unlock specific bottlenecks and involve other arms of government in prioritizing the open data agenda. Tanzania has an OGP action plan that focuses on health, water and education services where the impact of open contracting - if adopted- will strengthen governance processes in the provision of these crucial services to the citizens.
The event ended with firm commitments that will go beyond the initial execution of country projects and focus on real change when it comes to delivering impact on the ground. Some of the reflections from the meeting include:
- ‘’As a learning process this was very interactive. I have improved on my strategy and ready to hit the ground running.’’
- ‘’When developing projects, we make many assumptions that are not tested. This forum has opened my eyes to appreciate the role of a community (people advocating for the same agenda) especially in sharing knowledge.’’
- ‘’I will definitely scale up this exercise to my partners as a best practice’’
- ‘’I was able to experience first-hand what it truly means to co-create’’
Hivos and ARTICLE 19 want to open up public contracting through actively engaging citizens who want to monitor public spending. That is why we support civil society organizations and others in developing the capacities they need to analyse government contracts data for evidence-based advocacy.