Friday, 2 August 2013

Open Contracting: Rwanda’s Private Sector See Real Benefits

Disclosure and participation by ordinary people and civil society in public contracting has for long been questioned as to whether it is relevant and beneficial. These questions have often arose following frustration with under performing contract through delays, cost escalation, technical failures and blame game between private contractors and  the client (public agencies). Whereas no consensus has been reached in this debate, private sector experiences from Rwanda bring an important dimension in the discussion.
With probably similar fears, doubts and curiosity as elsewhere, Rwanda’s District Local Governments of Rubavu, Kayonza, Huye and Musanzi with the blessing of the Ministry of Local Government allowed a contracts monitoring coalition to monitor the implementation of contracts on infrastructure development and water and sanitation projects. This arrangement was enabled through a memorandum of understanding between each of the four local governments and the national coalition.      
Under the coordination of Transparency International Rwanda and with technical assistance of a consultant, the coalition monitored implementation of contracts. The main objective was to find out if public contracting was being done in accordance with the law and to establish whether contracts were delivering value for money. The coalition from time to time provided useful feedback on how performance of contracts could be improved.
What were the results?
All the four Local Governments reported positive feedback on the usefulness of the work of the coalition in helping to advance contract performance and in explaining content of contracts to ordinary people. On their part private contractors reported that they had experienced less issues with clients in contracts where the coalition was monitoring as compared to those where there was no third party monitors in the same districts.
Encouraged by this feedback the national coalition is planning to broaden its reach to enlist involvement of other players as well as scale up its work to more districts and sectors. This work clearly needs the necessary support and encouragement.
The importance of open contracting is gaining recognition in Africa and around the world. In Uganda, 22 civil society organisations under the Uganda Contract Monitoring Coalition (UCMC) are promoting information disclosure and citizen participation in contracts in health, education, agriculture, roads, energy and environment. In West Africa a lot of work is being done in public works. The G8 Summit recently  called on governments to “publish information on laws, budgets, spending, national statistics, elections and government contracts in a way that is easy to read and re-use, so that citizens can hold them to account"
Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) welcomes Rwanda’s leadership and is very hopeful that the country will be a reference point not only in advancing open contracting principles but also open government and right to information in Africa.

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