Case Study: Public Procurement in the Philippines

by Alexander Furnas

Introduction

For our Philippine case study, we conducted interviews with members of the following groups: staff at transparency NGOs, journalists who have covered procurement, and member organizations representing business interests. Our conversations with these respondents have allowed us to develop a diverse and comprehensive picture of how transparency, information communication technology (ICT) and civil society engagement in public procurement has impacted accountability.

These conversations have provided us with a detailed picture of procurement disclosure and data use in the Philippines since the reforms in 2002. A few findings have become clear:

  • For transparency and public oversight mechanisms to work, public data must be public in more than name only. Publishing information online is not enough, especially if it is trapped in a platform that limits how journalists and watchdogs are able to use the data. PhilGEPS data is not widely used by journalists or CSOs because of artificial and needless barriers to use.
  • Monitoring this volume of proceedings requires the scale and efficiency of data backed analysis. There are thousands of procurement proceedings every year in the Philippines. For example, as of Sept. 20th, 2013, PhilGEPS, the government e-procurement platform, lists 12,346 active opportunities. The civil sector doesn’t have the capacity to monitor procurement at this scale simply by attending the Bid and Awards Committee (BAC) meetings for each one, as the law allows.
  • Without a comprehensive right to information law, access to useful data is largely at the discretion of the procurement entity and varies greatly between procuring entities, depending on the informal trust-based relationships that CSOs have developed with officials.
  • Philippine law splits jurisdiction over procurement monitoring, investigation and sanctioning between various agencies, which can leave misconduct and inefficiency unchecked.

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