Open procurement update

Laurence Millar

TINZ Member with Delegated Authority for Open Government

Transparency of procurement (e.g. contracting) is essential for public trust in government. Open procurement was one of twelve areas of focus in the Open Government Partnership National Action Plan Three (NAP3). TINZ is delighted that the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) began publishing this open data in October 2019 and has followed up with quarterly publications since then.

The latest data, covering the year to 30 June 2020, was released as this article was written. Our analysis will be published in a future article. MBIE also published historic data from 2014 to June 2019. We applaud MBIE for this continuing commitment to open publication of contract award notices.

TINZ has analysed information on the 2,151 contract award notices that were published as open data for the period July 2019 to March 2020. As we wrote in April, this analysis is made difficult by data quality issues, specifically:

  • not completing the mandatory supplier field
  • not completing the mandatory amount field
  • “Not awarded” in the award field, when a supplier has been contracted
  • multiple variations of the supplier company name.

In response to the first two quality issues, we looked at the data provided by government agencies in the comments field and have added details of more than 200 suppliers and 200 contract values that are not published in the correct fields. As a result of this analysis, we have been able to publish details of 1,916 contract award notices for the period July 2019 to March 2020. The data illustrates the last two data quality issues.

There is a significant opportunity for improvement in the quality of the information about contract award notices published by government. We have suggested to MBIE that this could be a focus for the next 12 months, in light of the decision to extend NAP3 for a year in response to COVID-19. Since all the milestones in the Open Procurement Commitment have already been met, setting targets for this improvement would be an excellent focus while NAP4 is under development.

Agencies have varying mandate and eligibility under the government procurement rules. We have analysed compliance for the different types of agencies which is summarised below.

Mandate

Description of agencies

Number of award notices

“Not awarded” correctly stated

Value published

Required to comply with the rules

Public service and crown entities

1,364

82%

39%

Encouraged to comply with the rules

Tertiary institutions, local government

601

74%

11%

Have regard to or expected to comply with the rules

CRIs, other state sector organisations

35

80%

11%

Eligible to use government procurement systems

Other agencies that are able to use GETS

150

88%

53%

All award notices

2,150

80%

32%

It is ironic that the highest level of compliance is achieved by the sector with the weakest mandate. The “eligible” sector achieved 88% correct publication of award notices, and 53% publication of contract value.

The TINZ view is that the level of compliance with the mandatory procurement rules needs significant improvement by all government agencies. We encourage government agencies to identify ways in which they can improve the quality of the information that they published about contract award notices. We propose the following targets:

  • 'Award' field correctly published — Target of 98% by June 2021
  • 'Contract value' published — Target of 70% by June 2021.

We also support the ongoing efforts by MBIE to improve the quality of the supplier data, such as encouraging suppliers to provide their New Zealand Business Number (NZBN).

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