Monday, May 29, 2017

Challenges to doing procurement right in West Africa

By Andrew Mandelbaum
“Public procurement” sounds bureaucratic and boring, but the stakes of doing it well are high. In West Africa, where we have recently completed a series of scoping studies with the Open Contracting Partnership (OCP), government procurement accounts for nearly 15% of GDP

Beneficiaries of the goods, services, and works procured through public contracts -- citizens -- depend on these funds being well spent. So do the livelihoods of workers who will construct, grow, and produce as a result.

Through our West Africa open contracting studies project, DG and the OCP found positives and negatives about the procurement environments in the countries studied: Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Liberia, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire1. Despite the advances, which include stronger legal frameworks and institutional organization for procurement, we identified a number of commonly occurring trouble areas throughout the procurement cycle.

In this post, we highlight some of these challenges, along with some of the solutions these countries are implementing to address them.

In the planning phase, there are two primary issues to tackle:

  • Budget preparation and procurement plans: In a number of countries, the procurement process is delayed due to delays in budget preparation and approval. In some instances, post-adoption changes to procurement prevent the start of procedures for approved purchases.
  • Conducting appropriate assessments and engaging beneficiaries: Few countries provide information on the results of needs assessments, environmental impact reports or other studies that may be undertaken in advance of a procurement. Affected citizens are not often consulted, which opens the door to misunderstanding and even negative feelings throughout the process.
As governments begin to adopt e-procurement solutions (as Nigeria and Ghana, and perhaps others, are likely to do in the coming years), exploring opportunities to link procurement planning systems with other information systems can drive healthy practices. For instance, procurement planning can be linked directly to budget systems, requiring that procurements adhere to approved budgets. 

Linking procurement planning to tenders can ensure that the latter align with budget allocations, while alerts can be set to inform procurement authorities if tendering moves ahead without completion of required assessments. A unique identifier, as suggested by the Open Contracting Data Standard, can help to ensure these links.

The challenge of the tender phase -- in West Africa and beyond -- is to prevent the intentional or inadvertent limiting of competition for public contracts. Several common troubles found in our study include:   

  • Fair announcement of public tenders: Legal requirements related to the posting and timing of tender announcements are often not respected. This could be due to the compression of timelines, the incongruity of tender preparations with the publishing of key publications, a lack of funding for advertising, and many other issues.
  • Equitable pre-bidding procedure: In some cases, pre-bidding procedures were found to be used to narrow the specification of a project to the exclusion of some bidders on unclear grounds.
  • Combatting informal tendering procedures: Businesses interviewed suggested the existence of parallel tendering procedures, whereby a formal process often gives way to closed-door negotiations.
Monitoring the competitiveness of the tender process can reveal valuable information about the actual challenges faced by companies bidding on public contracts. Depending on the quality of data collected by governments, these data can often be used to understand how many bidders bid on various procurement types, the prevalence of disparities between procuring entities or regions, or whether other factors are influencing the capacity of qualified bidders to participate. Other analytics can help detect whether competition is real or if some suppliers are colluding to give the appearance of a fair competition.

The award phase features two challenges related to the process of selecting a supplier:
  • Secrecy of the evaluation: Although evaluations must be conducted in secret, losing bidders should have an opportunity to understand why they lost, while participants should have an opportunity to blow the whistle when needed.
  • Inadequate complaints procedure: Nearly all the countries have a formal complaints procedure, but in few instances can complainants be sure that their concerns will be treated with impartiality.
While several of the countries studied exhibit good practices in areas related to these challenges, none of the countries offers the full suite of feedback/redress mechanisms. This would include: 1) clear evaluation criteria established prior to the evaluation process; 2) a public summary of the evaluation; 3) opportunity for losing bidders to receive feedback; 4) opportunity for evaluation members to blow the whistle on unfair practices, and; 5) opportunity for losing bidders -- and even the general public, as in Guinea -- to protest the award. For participants and citizens to have confidence in the complaints process, complaints should be received by an independent body, with a public complaint and outcome summary, as in Nigeria.

Our next blog post on this topic will focus on data collection and public access. But this is the key challenge facing countries in the contract phase of the procurement process.

  • Lack of access to contract information: None of the participating countries provide public access to contracts, and few provide key information. A lack of public access to contracts and amendments altering the scope of work and/or increasing the budget present a significant opportunity for reduced value for money (due to “up charges”) or corruption.
Publishing contract information is the only way to assure the public that contracts are being implemented effectively and on time. Because this information is not often available, many civil society organizations in the region monitor construction and works projects relying on budget data. This can create unnecessary confusion and give the appearance that malfeasance is taking place when it may not be.

In the implementation phase, there are several key challenges, including a deficit of data disclosure:

  • Delays in payment processing: Poorly functioning public financial management (PFM) systems and paper-based project management tools often result in long lead times for payments to implementing firms (often in excess of 90 days). These payment delays reduce the appeal of public procurement opportunities for international firms, and can be damaging to cash flow management of SMEs.
  • Lack of information and strong a posteriori oversight: Little information is available about project implementation and payments, preventing citizens and governments from ensuring that procurement is resulting in efficient service delivery. In some countries, auditing bodies lack capacity and resources to conduct audits that would help ensure service delivery and value for money.
Adoption of e-procurement solutions and integration with PFM systems may reduce some of the barriers to on-time payment processing and facilitate payment tracking. They can furthermore facilitate the transfer of data necessary for civil society, private sector and audit agencies to conduct real-time and a posteriori oversight. Some challenges can be resolved through an increase in political will and training: In Côte d’Ivoire, there have been 171 cases taken to court by the regulatory authority (ANRMP) since 2010, against 0 prior.

1The last study was conducted by the OCP and the World Wide Web Foundation, and was included in the synthesis report for this project.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


Accra, Ghana 24th May, 2017. Ghana has been selected to host the second Africa Open Data Conference (AODC) in July 2017. The four-day conference will be held at the Accra International Conference Centre from 17 – 21 July 2017.

The first edition of the AODC was organized by the Africa Open Data Collaborative in September 2015 in Tanzania hosted by the Government of Tanzania and its people and supported by the World Bank, Code for Africa, Global Open Data for Agriculture & Nutrition initiative, Worldwide Web Foundation, MCC, and numerous other partners.

The 2017 Africa Open Data Conference in Accra, Ghana is set to attract over 600 delegates drawn from all over Africa and the world at large. This auspicious event will push the leadership role of the private sector in supplying, using, and demanding open data, and bring together brilliant innovators and visionaries to grow their networks, hone their success, and connect with sources of support, and introduce investors and donors to an expanding sector that seeks and supplies open data to achieve development goals in Africa and across the globe.

Ghana is part of the Africa open data Community and signed unto the Open Government Partnership in September 2011, which sparked off a quest for Ghana to open-up its government data with some data now available at

For more info and registration about the conference, please visit or contact the secretariat via email address:  or call +233-20-8128851/ 057-7605119
Follow us #AODC.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Accra Technology Salon to discuss how ICT’s can support better Public Health Services in Ghana

To gauge the status of ICTs use in Ghana’s Public health delivery system, Penplusbytes will on Tuesday May 30, 2017, host the 15th Accra Tech Salon to discuss the topic; “How Can ICTs support better Public Health Services in Ghana  at the New Media Hub in Osu, Ako-Adjei.

Led by our key thought leaders; Seth Afagbedzi, Lecturer, School of Public Health, University of Ghana, Ernest Gavor, CEO of 233apps, developers of Moja App and Sam Quarshie, head of ICT Ghana Health Service, the 2 hour educative and interactive roundtable is expected to bring together Public Health Professionals, Technologists and developers with the needed insight to delve into the status of ICTs application in public health services delivery.

The availability of new technology tools is transforming the delivery of health services across the globe. In Ghana, the emergence of mobile health systems, electronic data management, and electronic healthcare medicine is affecting learning and research, administration and surveillance, and even health service delivery.

Through the development of databases and other applications, ICTs also providing the capacity for improving health system efficiencies, and preventing medical errors. This notwithstanding, few health professionals and clinics are accessing the opportunities offered by technology in public health administration and delivery.

Kwami Ahiabenu, II, Executive Director of Penplusbytes, said the Technology Salon will explore exactly how new digital technologies can enhance public health care services. To do this, “the Tech Salon will offer a platform for key stakeholders to discuss practical ideas and innovations which are being applied currently as well the other tech interventions that could be leveraged to serve as a catalyst for improved health services in Ghana,” he added.

Discussions will explore issues such as what Health Information Systems technologies are presently available, what the prospects of mobile health technologies in Ghana’s Public health services delivery system are and what the challenges to improving access to and management of health information in Ghana are. Participants will also deliberate on what health portals and ICT-based tools could assist in disease prevention, treatment and health monitoring as well as offer answers to how Ghana can achieve a complete healthcare reform with ICT.

Please RSVP now to join your health, technology and development peers for the Accra Technology Salon.

Penplusbytes is a not-for-profit organization driving change through innovations in three key areas: using new digital technologies to enable good governance and accountability, new media and innovations, and driving oversight for effective utilisation of mining, oil and gas revenue and resources.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Deutsche Welle demands the immediate release of their correspondent in DR Congo

DW-correspondent Antéditeste Niragira has been imprisoned in the Democratic Republic of Congo since Wednesday (17 May 2017).

Niragira wanted to file a report for DW about the desolate conditions of Burundian refugees in a camp near the town of Kavimvira in the DR Congo.

Our correspondent was arrested by members of the Congolese intelligence service (ANR) in the refugee camp and transferred to a prison in the town of Uvira. Meanwhile, a lawyer commissioned by DW was able to ascertain the physical integrity of our correspondent.

Congolese authorities are refusing to provide further information about the accusation of espionage against our correspondent.

„The accusation that our correspondent is a spy is outrageous and baseless“, says DW-spokesperson Christoph Jumpelt. „We demand that the authorities in the DR Congo release Antéditeste Niragira immediately and provide for his safe return to Burundi.“

The last contact from Niragira with his wife was at 12:00 hours (local time) on 17 May 2017 from the Burundian-Congolese border crossing at Gatumba. Since the news of his disappearance, DW has been working on Antéditeste Niragira’s release through all available channels.

Friday, May 19, 2017

RSVP NOW: Accra Tech Salon - How can ICTs Enhance Public Health Services in Ghana?

How Can ICTs Enhance Public Health Services in Ghana?

The availability of new digital technology tools has transformed the health sector. The emergence of mobile health systems, electronic data management, and electronic healthcare medicine is affecting learning and research, administration and surveillance, and even health service delivery across Ghana’s health sector.

However, few health professionals and clinics are accessing the opportunities offered by technology in public health administration and delivery.

Please RSVP now to join the next Accra Tech Salon and dive into the status of ICT application in Ghana’s public health services delivery with esteemed guests, public health professionals, technologists, developers and these key thought leaders:
Please RSVP now to join the discussion as we explore issues like:
  • What Health Information Systems technologies are presently available?
  • What are the prospects of mobile health technologies in Ghana’s Public health services delivery system?
  • What are the challenges in improving access to and management of health information?
  • What health portals and ICT-based tools can assist in disease prevention, treatment and health monitoring?
  • How Ghana can achieve a complete healthcare reform with ICT?
We’ll have hot coffee and catered breakfast treats for a morning rush, but seating is limited. Once we reach our 30-person capacity there will be a waiting list!
Technology for Healthcare
May Technology Salon Accra
Tuesday, May 30th 2017
8:30am - 10:30 a.m.
New Media Hub at Penplusbytes
No.1 Ostwe Close, Ako Adjei, Osu,
Accra, Ghana (
RSVP is required for attendance

About the Technology Salon

Technology Salon™ is an intimate, informal, and in person, discussion between information and communication technology experts and international development professionals, with a focus on both:
  • technology's impact on donor-sponsored technical assistance delivery, and
  • private enterprise driven economic development, facilitated by technology.
Our meetings are lively conversations, not boring presentations. Attendance is capped at 35 people - and frank participation with ideas, opinions, and predictions is actively encouraged.

It's also a great opportunity to meet others motivated to employ technology to solve vexing development problems.
Join us today!