On Saturday 7th March 2020, the tenth Open Data Day took place with people around the world organising over 300 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. Thanks to generous support from key funders, the Open Knowledge Foundation was able to support the running of more than 60 of these events via our mini-grants scheme.

This blogpost is a report by Diálogos in Guatemala who received funding from Hivos to examine the volume of public procurement undertaken by the main ministries of the Government of Guatemala.

Diálogos celebrates Open Data Day 2020 in Guatemala

The study of public procurement has become more relevant in the anti-corruption agenda of many governments, mainly due to the high capital that comes from these resources. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), public contracts represented 15% of global GDP in 2015. In OECD countries, it is estimated that the figure is around 29% of public spending while for developing countries it can be up to 50%.

However, in the different phases of the public procurement process, there are bad practices that lead to mismanagement of public resources. These weaknesses become evident in systems with ambiguous legislation, little available information, the absence of open data and bureaucratic processes with wide discretion.

The Guatemalan State procurement system has several of these characteristics. A study presented by CIEN indicates the lack of unity in the application of the regulations, as well as the conflicts in the interpretation of these (Bonilla and Quezada, 2016). In addition to the lack of clarity in the regulations, the current public procurement system is not integrated. This has led to a gap between the planning and awarding processes for public goods and services.

Analysis carried out by Diálogos on the public contracts of the General Direction of the National Civil Police (DGPNC) shows the importance of studying the contracting processes within government agencies. From the data, it is verified that the problem does not lie in compliance with regulations, but in the dynamics that allow some suppliers to take advantage of the contracting system.

Likewise, the study evidenced the lack of data in the different contracting phases to elaborate the different indicators of red flags. One of the great challenges facing the hiring study in Guatemala is the limited information available in open data formats. In this sense, it is necessary for the study of public contracting to promote the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) for Guatemala, and with this guarantee access to data in open format. From this starting point, the possible routes to promote transversality in the public procurement system can be started directly or indirectly.

Diálogos celebrated 10th Open Data Day 2020 in Guatemala with a data scouting on public procurement data. The event was held in the Escuela de Gobierno with more than 25 students of its Public Management Master Programme. The first part of the activity started with a discussion of where Guatemala fits and how can we move forward towards the application of OCDS. Discussion focused on the importance of preventing corruption in public procurement and better allocation of public goods through the Open Contracting Partnership

Building on the discussion, participants downloaded the dataset for all contracts awarded on 2019. All participants were assigned to groups and examine different buying entities. They explore amount and values of contracts, types of modalities, contest and award dates, among many other variables.

Findings revealed the use of uncompetitive modalities, contracts awarded during some months, and bidders that received more contracts. During presentations, participants were able to press more questions and understand how to identify key lines of research to understand the use of public funds.

Thanks to the OCDS initiative, it has been possible to promote an open data agenda in public procurement at the international level. However, there are important challenges in each individual country regarding the level of detail, the availability of information at each stage and the quality of the data itself. Therefore, Diálogos will continue promoting dialogue in the search for innovative solutions that contribute to solving this challenge.